Rahul Saharan: Acid Attack Survivors Redefine Beauty As Calendar Girls

When thinking of the quintessential calendar girl, burns and scars don’t often come to mind, but for photographer Rahul Saharan, that’s exactly what he aimed for with his latest project to help raise funds and awareness for survivors of acid attacks.

The idea for the calendar began with the Stop Acid Attacks campaign, by the Chhanv Foundation, which focuses on the rehabilitation of acid attack survivors in India, where the horrific act of violence against women happens far too often. In India alone, it’s estimated that there are around 1,000 acid attacks annually, although the country does not formally keep count. And women are targeted for a number of reasons, from simply denying unwanted attention from men to wanting a better education.

The survivors featured in the calendar, called the Bello Calendar, also run a small cafe in Agra, India called Sheroes’ Hangout. The cafe itself is part of the movement to stop acid attacks, with the company explaining that it is far more than just a a hangout, but is a “readers’ cafe, an activism workshop, a community radio hub, and an exhibit space, where works crafted by Sheroes will be on display.”

The calendar, solely featuring models who are survivors of acid attacks, was created in honor of International Women’s Day, which took place on March 8. The foundation explained the idea behind the Bello Calendar on its website.

“The idea behind the calendar shoot by Acid Attack fighters emerged from the debate on the true meaning of beauty and the present attitude of the society towards understanding the concept of beauty in a limited realm. We stand against all those who discriminate and misjudge those who have lost their faces but have strived to retain their identities.”

And although the women featured in the calendar are not what people are accustomed to when it comes to models, they do represent a different kind of beauty. Rather than the beauty of flawless skin and perfect bodies, it’s the beauty of strength, bravery, and courage. Photographer Rahul Saharan was able to capture the essence of survival, and so the women emerge as fighters rather than victims.

In an email interview with the Huffington Post, Saharan said he was happy to be take his place in the project, knowing that it made the women feel “confident, courageous and strong.”

“They are fighters. It’s up to us — we make them victims or we make them fighters.”

He noted that everyone has a responsibility to empower women just like those featured in the Bello Calendar.

This is not the first time Saharan photographed these women. In a project last year, one of the survivors launched a clothing line, using models who were also survivors of acid attacks. Saharan was part of that project, as well. To read the stories behind these amazing women, and how they became survivors of acid attacks, click here.

[Image via Facebook]