India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Framed
September 25, 2018

A Show Of Hands

Photographs by Vincent Dolman

What intrigues London-based photographer Vincent Dolman the most about India, is the way men express their comfort with one another by walking hand-in-hand. Explaining why he loves this male gesture that is rarely seen in his homeland in England, the lensman shares images from his series Holding Hands

I have travelled around India around eight or nine times so far, and I’ve always seen men holding hands. I had taken a few shots of this, but never thought of making it a full story. I found it really beautiful. It represents love and friendship, both much needed in today’s world. It’s a love between men that we don’t show in western societies because we are probably scared of not being macho enough. As a kid, you can hold your mate’s hand but when you hit your teens, it’s a big no-no. The photos are holding a mirror up to western society, saying, ‘Look, what have we lost?’ It’s sad really! But also what has come out of it is that people in India are contacting me saying that it is taboo for gay men to hold hands out of fear of abuse. This is also true in the UK. To hammer the depressing point home, it was recently reported that more than two-thirds of LGBTQ couples in the UK won’t hold hands because they’re scared of abuse, because, horrendously, homosexuality is still stigmatised.

While working on this project, I asked many of the men in the shots why they held hands and they looked at me as if I was asking a silly question and simply said: ‘We are best friends.’

The whole journey has been fascinating. First, just trying to work out what it is about and where it happens was difficult. I spent a week in Mumbai running around with a friend, trying to find people holding hands. Some said that it’s a class thing and that the middle classes don’t really hold hands. I wasn’t even aware that India is currently debating Article 377 that criminalises gay sex. I’m glad that these photos are encouraging debate. And what’s amazing now is the number of people contacting me on Instagram with their views on the subject.

It’s so hard to pick a favourite photo as I have a very personal connection with them all. But I love the one where there are two old men holding hands. I was in a rickshaw when I spotted them, and almost jumped out while it was moving. I think they were old friends who had bumped into each other and were catching up.

The mere fact that India is currently debating Article 377 is a step in the right direction. But I love the whole holding-hands concept; it’s so refreshing to me. I love the way men can, without even thinking, show how close they are to one another. I want to make men in western society think about being more affectionate! In our society, you only get a hug from your mate when you’re in a pub and have had one too many drinks!

– As Told To Huzan Tata

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