Published in 2012 by Edition Patrick Frey, Balika Mela is a photobook by photographer Gauri Gill. It consists of portraits of female subjects taken at the Balika Mela, Lunkaransar, Rajasthan in 2003 and 2010. The seventy two black and white images and thirty two colour reproductions appear alongside essays by Gill and Manju Saran, the subject of one of these images who went on to open a photo studio herself.
Balika Mela was a fair organised specifically for adolescent girls and women by the nonprofit organisation Urmul Setu Sansthan and featured several stalls with food and forms of entertainment. The black and white portraits in the book were taken in a temporary photo studio first set up by Gill at the fair in 2003, which included props and backdrops sourced from the local photo studio and a cloth shop. The subjects of the portraits were free to choose how they would be photographed within this setup — individually or with friends or family, with props from the studio or ones they had brought themselves — with the photographer co-directing the images. These photographs were then made available as silver gelatin prints for visitors of the fair to purchase.
Gill returned to the Balika Mela in 2010 and set up a photo exhibition of the images she had shot seven years ago. Some of the girls she had photographed were at the 2010 fairl, or were known to others attending. Upon the crowd’s insistence, she once again set up a photo studio and began taking portraits, this time around in colour.
Balika Mela was launched with an exhibition of the same name at Nature Morte, New Delhi in September, 2012.
Editions Patrick Frey. “Balika Mela.” Accessed May 30, 2021. https://www.editionpatrickfrey.com/en/books/balika-mela-gauri-gill
Gauri Gill. “Books.” Accessed May 29, 2021. http://www.gaurigill.com/books.html
Nature Morte. “Balika Mela.” Accessed May 29, 2021.