During her transition, artist, performer and writer Vivek Shraya began recreating photos of her mother. In images that look like modern retellings, echoes and updates of her mother’s origins, Shraya shares the way her mother has lent to and helped determine her identity. The title of the project, Trisha, is echoed in the last line of the essay Shraya includes with the images: “You used to say that if you had a girl, you would have named her Trisha.”
Kajal spoke with Shraya about her project, where it came from and what went into making it.
- The inspiration for this project was obviously your mother, but what prompted it? Why now?
While transitioning, and just being in my thirties in general, I see so much of my mom in my physical appearance, especially my face. The idea of Trisha stemmed from these observations.
2. What was it about your mother that needed to be recreated? Why do you think she was the subject of your project about introspection and gender identity?
My mom is one of my biggest inspirations especially in relation to my gender. This project was partially a way to honour her for this and for being the person whose love kept me alive.
3. I really like how the pictures are almost echoes of each other — you don’t wear her clothes or match every detail, it’s almost as though you’re an update of her or like your parallel images. Was this intentional?
One of the challenges was trying to determine how exact the replications should be. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find all the exact clothing or background details. But more importantly, I worried about the project turning into a an exercise in one hundred percent replication, or perfection, which wasn’t really the intention. The idea was for the photos to be more of an homage.
In conversations with my friends and the photographer, Karen Campos Castillo, we decided to try to strike a balance between including some similar aspects as the original photos, as well as incorporating contemporary elements, like Elmo, my iPhone or the laptop screensaver (in place of an alarm clock), as a way to infuse the new photos with some humour and my own personality. That said, all six people on set were very invested in getting my facial expressions and body language as close to my mom’s as possible, adjusting me and guiding me as necessary: “Look angrier!” “Lean forward!” “Think of something sad!”
4. You speak directly to your mother in the text portion of this project. Has she seen it?
I have not yet shown her the project but I hope to one day.