© Poulomi Basu

The border areas between India and Pakistan are dangerous and in many areas lawless.

Indian women have very recently become part of the military response to arms dealing, drug smuggling and people trafficking.

“On September 2009, India’s first ever batch of women soldiers of The Border Security Armed Force were deployed in these infamous borders of Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir as the country’s first line of defence,” says Basu.

Poulomi Basu spent time with the young women (aged 17-25), both Hindus and Muslims, at boot camps, homes and on the front-line documenting their “transformation from women to soldiers.”

Basu believes these women are not only fighting their enemies but also the military tradition and the attitudes of a patriarchal society. Less than 1% of India’s 1.2 million armed forces are women.

To Conquer Her Land is about new forms of stress – related to combatant life – that has never existed for Indian women before in history. Basu says To Conquer Her Land wrestles with “intricate issues of conflict, psychological warfare, class, youth, gender, love, peace, the concept of home, an undefined idea of patriotism, and the strength of the mind.”

The series is a beguiling mix of fine art portraiture, B&W documentary images and PJ style theatre-of-war shots. The mixture can be quite disorienting; blurry B&W akin to Japanese art photography interrupted by delicate double and group portraits in colour. Basu even goes all Robert-Capa on us!

© Poulomi Basu


Photographer, Rachel Papo’s Serial #3817131 follows young Israeli girls through the mandatory military service.

Papo and Basu’s work have things in common, although Papo’s work is concerned with her own biography. Papo says, Serial #3817131 represents my effort to come to terms with the experiences of being a soldier from the perspective of an adult. My service had been a period of utter loneliness, mixed with apathy and pensiveness, and at the time I was too young to understand it all. Through the camera’s lens, I tried to reconstruct facets of my military life, hopeful to reconcile matters that had been left unresolved.”