Head. Hole.

Head. Hole.

Head, Hole. Sammidhesvara temple. Chittaurgahr Fort, Rajasthan, India, November 10, 1995. Platinum-palladium print on Wyndstone vellum, from 8×10 negative.

From the series, Prayer and Despair

It seems germane and poignant, sadly, to consider this image in light of women’s rights, gender-based violence, and the lack of ethics in our leaders. When I made this photograph, almost 22 years ago to the day, I was horrified by the effacement this lovely work of ancient graffiti had been subjected to. The temple structure dates from around 11 CE, but dotted around its pillars are scratched markings such as these, which in turn have been subjected to more vandalism.

Effacement is a strange thing. Medically, it describes the thinning of tissues (as when the cervix transforms to prepare for delivery) or biologically and geologically, when details are simplified or lost over evolutionary time. But it also breaks down to the loss of face, and in my mind, the wiping away of identity. Effacement, in this sense, is fine if it is about transcending self in order to approach the universal experience.

But it is not fine if identities are effaced in order to allow those with power to treat others like objects – sadly, this darker manifestation of human nature seems to prevail. I am trying to figure out why.

Detail and full scan: