Pacify is a project that aims to create visibility and represent South Asian LGBTQ youth. I started this project to create imagery that is reflective of my south Asian identity, my life and my story growing up in Mumbai, India. Through the use of fabrics that I associate with growing up in India, such as silk, I worked with photographer Zayira Ray to create this set of photos that highlights the themes of femininity and celebrating one's culture. Zayira and I have talked a lot about what our identity and where we come from mean to us, and it was so important for me to work with someone who understood my intentions with this project.
This project is very personal to me, and I always noticed very little South Asian LGBTQ representation growing up. It’s so important for me to keep pushing the idea of visibility and reach for the LGBTQ community in South Asia, as a lot of the media there is often problematic and mocks queer identity. I felt very disconnected from my culture growing up: I didn't feel accepted or like I could belong because my identity was at odds with societal norms. Over time, it felt like I had lost my connection with home, and it became hard for me to feel a sense of security and belonging. More recently, though, traveling back and forth from New York to Mumbai has given me a chance to look at my past life differently, and over the summer I found a way to reconnect and create a new version of home for myself on my own terms. I went fabric shopping, met up with tailors to plan these outfits, and borrowed my mother’s old jewelry for styling. This project has been very healing and transformative for me.
Photography by Zayira Ray. Styling and modeling by Harshvardhan Shah. All clothing handmade in Mumbai, India.
Ting Ting Chen