Finance & Development, March 2020, Vol. 57, No. 1

The Power of Images

Jacqueline Deslauriers

Sahiba Chawdhary

Trust and truth lie at the heart of Sahiba Chawdhary’s work. She never asks people to pose. If she misses a moment, then it’s gone, because it was up to her to capture it the first time. Her duty as a photographer is first and foremost to the people in the story.

Photography is her chosen medium because of its power to create change.

“Great photos have made policies and moved presidencies,” Chawdhary says. “Images can be so powerful in telling a story that words might miss.”

People connect with photos through their emotional reaction to the image. “There is no judgment, if, and, or but about a powerful photograph,” she says.

For her visually connected generation, photographs matter because they are authentic.

“Evidence of the truth is in images for this generation,” she says. “In an era of fake news, alternative facts and versions of events, photography matters because it can help reveal the true picture.”

Her photos in this issue of F&D magazine capture a young Indian woman, Dhara Shah, building a company and being an agent of change for her family’s life as well as for others.

Chawdhary built her early career on several newsroom and photo agency jobs in New York City, where she attended Columbia University’s Journalism School, and in India, Cambodia, and Singapore. Then the 26-year old decided to freelance. A leap of faith landed her back at home in India.

She took a few months off and started taking photographs for herself, with the goal of becoming a better photographer. Going through her archive from her days in New York, she found a story about drag queens. Intrigued, she went in search of the LGBTQIA community in New Delhi. Using social media platforms and researching gender rights, Chawdhary found drag events to attend. “They are lawyers by day and drag queens by night.”

She spent time with the drag queens and they began to trust her. Eventually she asked if she could take photos. Soon it was a photo essay about their community and lives as drag sisters. She knew she had to trust a publication to share this story with them and she chose The Hindu, one of India’s largest English-language daily newspapers, which agreed to publish them.

“Nothing gives me more peace than doing personal stories,” she says.

To see more of Sahiba Chawdhary’s work, visit her website.

JACQUELINE DESLAURIERS is on the staff of Finance & Development.

Opinions expressed in articles and other materials are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect IMF policy.