When Sujata Setia’s 8-year-old daughter asked her mother if she was beautiful, the photographer had to stop for a moment. “I wondered what to say to her. What is the definition of beauty? My husband and I are both of Indian origin, living in the UK. But our daughter is British. One day she might wonder why her skin is darker than some of her British friends,” the photographer told the site Bored Panda.
Aware that representations and mentalities are changing, Sujata Setia wanted her daughter not to be subjected to the same rules that she herself experienced when she was young. To ensure that she (and others) can grow beyond these concepts, the artist created the ‘Change the Conversation’ photo series to redefine beauty, stating that “true beauty lies in the fact that we are all unique.”
The series has moved beyond the issue of beauty to the issue of identities. “Last night my daughter asked me if she should tell everyone at school that she was Hindu just because her father is Hindu or if she should break free of that identity until she is old enough to choose her own spiritual attachment. I’ve seen a real shift in the conversations we have and that’s really why I started this project.”
The photographer doesn’t shy away from mistakes or criticism. She says she understands the criticism of her “over-retouching” but feels the reflection created makes up for the mistakes along the way. “All I have to say is that art is a journey. I’ve probably made mistakes. I may have abused my artistic freedom at times, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m working to change the conversations.”
Setia has stated that her portrait series have been a huge hit with her daughter. “She watches me retouch my images and the phrase she repeats when commenting on the models is always: ‘This person is unique mom.’ Since I started, she told me that she would never use the words ‘beautiful’ or ‘ugly’ again. In the family, we’ve completely stopped focusing on physical attributes.”