Sabu Jan Bibi


On the internet Sabu Jan Bibi’s photograph typically emphasises her disability and that she’d lived a hard life. Over time, as I slowly came to know her, I came to understand that she had lived an important life and that there was so much more to her than her blindness. Sabu Jan Bibi was always in control and it was she who determined when I could photograph and when it was time to stop. The portrait reflects her strong personality, her determination, and her natural elegance. We made a special occasion of taking her portrait buying a black, blue, and gold trimmed saree.
Chin down and eyes open, as though she’s fixing the viewer’s gaze, are important. I chose to make the viewer work hard by making the image uncomfortable to read – the forehead and nose are out of focus whereas the chin, mouth and eyes are in focus. Sight and seeing are important but not as important as perceiving that some aspects of her strong personality are sharp but others aspects are hidden and will never be clear.