First Place

Somewhat Lost

Richa Chandru Bhavanam


This photo series emerged from a phone conversation with my covid-positive, in-isolation mother: ‘How are you, Amma?’ ‘I’m good,’ she said, ‘I just feel… somewhat lost’. Perhaps it’s this feeling that best describes the experience of living through a pandemic – not just for her but for so many of us. In my attempt to portray this period in time, I photographed life in lockdown on the near outskirts of Bangalore, where I live with my family – which is bookended by my 86-year-old grandmother and 6-year-old niece. I documented their days as they melted from one to the next, and the world outside as we saw it from our apartment – a world that seems surreal, a world that feels intangible. Simple acts, like breathing the air around us and touching another person, have become delicate offerings, fragilities that are no longer ours to own. The volatility of these experiences left us disoriented, often yearning for touch and togetherness, and questioning who or what we will find ourselves to be on the other side of this extraordinary time. Somewhat lost hopes to speak of this experience – the journey through a time of displacement and the longing for a world that belongs to us.

Richa was schooled in Centre for Learning – Bangalore (2011), where her interest in art, humanities, and nature formed. She went on to study Philosophy at St.Stephen’s College – New Delhi (2014), and is now a freelance photographer based in Bangalore. Her learning in Photography began in 2010, with the medium of black and white film, under the mentorship of photographer Diba Siddiqi. This, along with her background in the social sciences continue to inform her work. She is most interested in documenting women-centric narratives. In 2014, she received the Neel Dongre awards/grants for excellence in photography. In 2018, she received the Sahapedia Frames Photography Grant. In 2019 and 2021 she was long-listed for the Toto Photography Award and in 2020 she was shortlisted for the Alkazi Theatre Photography Grant. In 2021 she received an award from Chennai Photo Biennale under the category Photo Essay ¬¬– Social Documentary. Her work has been exhibited at The India International Centre, Delhi (2015), Alliance Francaise du Bengale, Calcutta (2016), Contemporary Arts Week, Delhi (2016), Max Mueller Bhavan, Bangalore (2017) Her photographs have been published in leading newspapers and online portals. She most enjoys working on themes connected to the humanities and nature.

[ COVID EXPRESSIONS ] An interpretive project that reflects the personal experiences, feelings and thoughts related to COVID-19 and its impact. It may be conceptual or artistic in the approach. Submissions do not have to adhere to documentary principles. Alternate processes and digital manipulations are allowed. Each submission consists of 5 to 20 images. Each participant is allowed to enter up to 2 submissions. All images must be taken in 2021.

Judges for Covid Expressions
Ikuru Kuwajima
Tanvi Mishra
Sanjit Das
Maika Elan
Oded Wagenstein