Anouchka Renaud-Eck, Scrolling through Details, 2020

Anouchka Renaud-Eck was newly brokenhearted and starting to question perfect unions. The French photographer, who lives and works between Paris and Kerala, India, began her vibrant series Ardhanarishvara: In Search of Union in 2020 as a means of parsing through not only her own recent breakup, but also that of a close friend who, pressured by his parents, had just ended a six-year romantic relationship. Renaud-Eck’s conversations with her friend opened up a trapdoor into the complexities of Indian matchmaking—the cultural, educational and, in some cases, astral compatibilities that must be taken into account by the families involved—and laid the groundwork for flash portraits that situate centuries of honed courtship practices alongside millennial, tech-savvy tactics.

Starting with her friend’s social circle, Renaud-Eck’s subjects soon expanded to include strangers, schoolchildren, and newfound friends that the artist met during her frequent travels through the Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. The people she photographs—wide-ranging in terms of age, gender, and religious backgrounds—are posed in portraits that often look like freeze-frames. A hand just lifted, a head still swiveled away from the camera. Renaud-Eck maintains details of unsettled action across Ardhanarishvara, echoing the swift movements and constant seeking of what she calls the “wedding race.” The series title is the name for a composite form of two Hindu deities, the masculine Shiva and the feminine Parvati. One of Renaud-Eck’s portraits recreates the unified being’s likeness and, at a glance, the reclining subject might seem to offer a rare moment of serene stillness, a reprieve from the race. Look closer—this god holds a cellphone. They, too, must prepare for the next caller.

Anouchka Renaud-Eck, Girls Surrounded by Boys, 2020
Anouchka Renaud-Eck, Ardhanarishvara on Bed, 2020
Anouchka Renaud-Eck, The Triplet’s Fate, 2020
Anouchka Renaud-Eck, The Chosen One, 2020
Anouchka Renaud-Eck, <em>Mudras of Union, Love, and Affection</em>, 2020″>
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Anouchka Renaud-Eck, Mudras of Union, Love, and Affection, 2020

Anouchka Renaud-Eck, <em>The Kite of Life</em>, 2020″>
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Anouchka Renaud-Eck, The Kite of Life, 2020

Anouchka Renaud-Eck, The Immersion, 2020. All photographs from the series Ardhanarishvara
Courtesy the artist

Anouchka Renaud-Eck (born in Briançon, France, 1990) lives and works between Paris and India. Her photographic work questions and focuses on the construction of identity echoing with the “other.” Renaud-Eck mainly concentrates on themes of twinship, as well as the sense of belonging in a group or family, in order to question the construction of the fundamental characteristics of an individual and their uniqueness within a group. Since January 2020, Renaud-Eck has been working on a long-term project about arranged marriages and love in India. She works primarily in portraiture and photographing youth.

The Aperture Portfolio Prize is an annual international competition to discover, exhibit, and publish new talents in photography and highlight artists whose work deserves greater recognition.