The Unknown Citizen


Chandan Gomes portrays the citizen’s movement that has followed the Delhi gang rape, to realise that change is possible, if we come together with liberty, empathy and compassion.

Physical impairment can be treated and dead bodies can be buried, but what about an impaired or a dead spirit? We need to ponder over this, each one of us.

Chandan Gomes

The bus was nearly empty, as I made a photograph of a dear friend, on 16 December 2012. Around the same time, not far from where we were, a 23-year-old was being brutally assaulted in a bus just like ours. The next day, I woke up to the news of her ordeal and the presence of that photo. I took to the streets, like the many young women and men of Delhi, in a bid to get rid of our collective helplessness. We wanted to reclaim a city that we had lost to our apathy and indifference. This essay is the perspective of an unknown citizen, a common man, who realised that it could have been him instead of her. It could have been his sister, mother, friends or anyone else from the faceless mass. Through this essay, I wish to tell stories of friendship and courage that have gone undocumented. I strive to bring forth the little details; it is in them that the promise of hope rests.

“She fought well and lived bravely, and now, we have to fight and live in her memory.”

I am not documenting this movement as a photojournalist, but as a protestor who spent his Christmas and New Year on the streets, raising his voice for justice, equality and freedom.

Documenting a Citizen’s Movement that You are an Active Part of

  • Let us become self reliant and share stories from the perspective of a witness, a protester, a citizen.
  • Transcend the trivialities of whether you will get published or not, paid or not, whether you will get fame or not. A people’s movement is an important part of a country’s history, and if not documented, history tends to become fiction.
  • Walking around with pens, notebooks, cameras and record these whispers, these chatters. Carry these winds of change in your words, in your photographs.

This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of Better Photography.

Chandan Gomes is the youngest recipient of the IHC Fellowship for Photography. He is also the cofounder of Rang, a community of artists working towards creating a democratic space for the visual arts.