Viktoria Baskin is a storyteller who uses her lens to tell the stories of those she encounters as much as her own. Currently based in Bangalore – or Bengaluru – Viktoria works with the Belaku Trust, an NGO which aims to raise the living and health standards of marginalized women and children in this region of India. For the last few months, Viktoria has been listening and ‘telling’ the stories of these women and their children, capturing and ‘translating’ them for a Western audience, in order to raise awareness for the work accomplished by the Belaku Trust.
ALOUD: Hi Viktoria, where did you grow up? Do you come from a creative family?
VIKTORIA BASKIN: I grew up in sunny Newcastle, under very blue skies. A place of paradox. My Mum was a fashion designer in a coal mining town with a steel works and my Dad worked managing that business. Try telling the lads at your Brother’s rugby match that your Dad works in a frock shop! My mum is this resilient, funny, intelligent, incredible architect of clothing. My Dad is an innovative thinker & philospher. I said recently at the opening of my exhibition, that everything I think is possible for women in this world comes from what my Dad thinks is possible for me.
ALOUD: Did someone have an especially strong influence on the direction of your work?
VIKTORIA: I had some great teachers at the University of Newcastle (Media Production) but I think my real education came from my mentor and friend Karl Brandstater. He taught me to argue. I learnt that your work becomes all the moments you can’t let go of, the pieces you fight for rather than the pieces you cut out.
The day he told me that my style of working reminded him of his approach to documentary was my graduation.
ALOUD: How would you describe your artistic style?
VIKTORIA: Empathetic. Clumsy, analytical, critical. Full of admiration & colour.
ALOUD: What projects are you currently working on?
VIKTORIA: At the minute I’m working with an Non-Government organisation called The Belaku Trust, founded by Saras Ganapathy. An NGO based in Bangalore, or Bengaluru as the locals title it – The fruits of Belaku’s labour can really be seen in the surrounding villages of the Kanakapura Taluk, South India.
In the competitive world of NGO’s it’s imperative to justify your work & to create credibility in a bid to apply for ongoing funding. This is particularly the case of Belaku, as a lot of the impact of their work is qualitative, and can not be shown in a chart. I’ve been volunteering my time here as a new-media aid-worker since September. Sitting on village hut floors, talking to the women, fumbling around trying to get to know how this world works and why it functions the way it does.
The end result will be that Belaku will have a series of digital documentaries that reflect their work in the powerful voices of the women’s lives they’ve changed. Hopefully I can design the docos in a way that speaks to both an Eastern & Western audience.
ALOUD: Earlier, you said: “Everything I think is possible for women in this world comes from what my Dad thinks is possible for me.” In the context of the Belaku trust, could you describe this “transition” state that women are in, in terms of limits and opportunities?
VIKTORIA: Transition is ugly. It’s dusty, it’s grey, it’s concrete, it’s stubborn, seemingly immovable. Looking into my own Western history, the feminist movement seems almost glorified now. I’m sure, in the beginning, when the transition began it was also an ugly time.
But, the fight for equality here is nothing like the fight for equality in the west; men & women can’t be equal, we’re not the same. But, we are just as necessary as each other. It’s in recognising their necessity to the family unit, to the village, to each other that this transition gains momentum.
To gain awareness is a gentle moment, a soft movement & when the tipping point arrives it won’t be remembered. The women here are at the edge, the beginning, they know there is a world out there where they are given a choice but they know they won’t shape it nor reach it in their lifetimes. All they can do is nudge it just enough so that their daughters, their sons, can nudge it a little more & so on until it tips.
Some days I come home, crawl into my straw bed & hide from the impossibility of it all. From my paradigm, it’s overwhelming. But, the next day, you get up, throw your camera on your back & go back out there. Their smiles, their love, their care just put me back together again & I know, that one day, this will change. This will all change in a way that’s best for their kids, that’s best for this culture, that’s best for these women.
ALOUD: What is your current working situation like?
VIKTORIA: Everything I work with is in my backpack. I’m working in the office mostly at the minute trying to get translations done & build a website for Belaku. When I head out to the village I throw my tripod in the bus door, chase it down the road & pull myself onto the same red bus to Kanakapura. It’s hot here at the moment so my current working situation is a sweaty one!
ALOUD: Do you find a balance between ‘life’ and ‘work’?
VIKTORIA: I recently told someone that my life is my work. My creativity; It’s an extra limb. I used to be ashamed of that, people told me that I worked too much, that I didn’t live but here I am, roaming around rural karnataka. My work creates a rich life that I could never have imagined for myself.
ALOUD: Was working for yourself a key factor in the direction of your career?
VIKTORIA: No, not at all. I don’t believe in working for yourself. What I do is very much about collaboration, it’s for the subject and the audience as much as it is for me. To create stories about someone’s life, to tell them so they’re relevant to someone else’s life, all of that means you’re working for everyone other than yourself.
©All photos Viktoria Baskin (unless stated otherwise).
ALOUD: What is the most challenging aspect of your career?
VIKTORIA: Making money. I don’t like that I have to do it. But it’s a creative boundary that influences your work for better or for worse. I don’t want to tell stories I don’t believe in. It’s idealistic and ridiculous, and I can see my Dad frowning as he reads on, but when I discovered my passion for teaching I breathed a sigh of relief. I can survive in this world through teaching & working on projects at the same time. I’ve been lucky so far, but to say I’m rolling in the rupees would be a lie.
ALOUD: So then, what makes it all worthwhile?
VIKTORIA: Meaning in the making. My work/life have to have meaning for me to see it as worthwhile. I’ll chase that dream till the day I die. I’m not changing the world by taking a photograph, or by producing a documentary, all I’m doing is recognising someone else’s experience; their existence. Turning to them and asking them “hey why are you here?” Just like you do with your blog. It’s a nice moment. It’s a meaningful moment.You know, sometimes no one’s ever asked a person that.
That’s what makes it truly worthwhile, seeing someone unfold and place trust in you. It’s a special place to hold, an honour, and every time you step into someone’s life they leave you with a life lesson, a new challenge. You celebrate each other and move forward knowing you’ve just changed each other in some way.
Viktoria Baskin was recommended by Hannah Rose Robinson – Photographer – Newcastle, Australia.
You can follow Viktoria Baskin on:
On Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/viktorbaskin
If you are an artist or designer and have turned your passion into your livelihood, I would love to hear from you and help you get the word out there. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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