© 2018 Marc Ohrem-Leclef
Zameen Asmaan Ka Farq
(formerly Jugaad - Of Intimacy and Love)
- ongoing -
In Zameen Asmaan Ka Farq I use the dialogue between photographic portraits and quotes
from informal interviews to explore the intersections of homosocial culture, friendship and love
between men in India. I am especially interested in the impacts of patriarchy, 'colonial masculinities'
and contemporary gender identity politics on the lives of my collaborators.
In our conversation, Pawan recalled:
"I had this very strong attachment to somebody and we held hands in a very public place in Calcutta
and it was the most ordinary thing to do, but for both of us it was very different. It was special, it was
almost like being there, being visible to everyone … but hiding everything."
The quote touches on key concerns of my ongoing work in India: the region's history of socially
accepted fluidities of sexuality, gender and identity that until today provide room for affections and
intimacies between men in ambiguous, unspoken spaces; the struggles of queer individuals that
persist even after recent the decriminalization of homosexuality in late 2018; the discourse around
LGBTQ organizing with its models of identities that can further restrict formerly granted freedoms;
the politics of touch across classes and castes.
I collaborate with individuals from a broad range of identities, classes, castes, tribal communities,
religions and backgrounds, ranging from scholar to day laborer, to uncover the deeply personal,
human side of how social dynamics, tradition and progress affect male relationships in India today.
When I am asked 'when are you finished with your research here, what will your conclusion be?', I
answer that it is not me but my collaborators who are writing the book, and that the 'results' are as
multifold as their truths shared with me.
Sets of social norms that enable these unspoken 'grey spaces' have been described to me as a form
of Jugaad. The term Jugaad inhabits the world of simplistic mechanics - with its inherent lack of a
proposal of an ideal solution but rather a 'make do’, in this context my work encourages a discourse
on the possibilities and limits are in the lives of those who desire same sex love in India today.
The dimensions of love I document here are beyond the heteronormative binaries I grew up with in
Germany. Implicating my inherently Western notions of identity and intimacy, my initial impulse was
to attempt and decode the gestures of affections I witnessed in India. Instead, I have turned to docu-
menting the many kinds of love and identities I encounter. My collaborators’ voices–beyond their
personal struggles and victories–also reflect India’s critical moment at a crossroads between tradition
Since early 2017 I have photographed in 15 territories across India (using an analog, medium-format
camera) and conducted and recorded 120+ interviews in 12 languages.
* Zameen Asmaan Ka Farq - Hindi/Urdu: 'As far apart as the Earth is from the Sky' - recorded in a
conversation in Northern India in 2017.