“For me, photography was more of a need, because I was going through a personal crisis. I had lost a friend, and I had to find a way of living again.” At the beginning of last year Debmalya Roy Choudhuri travelled to Rishikesh, a city in northern India, at the foot of the Himalayas, known as the “yoga capital of the world”.
He wanted to remove himself from the urban chaos and violence in his hometown, Kolkata, and challenge the idea of home as defined by four walls. “I had a very difficult childhood where I had to confront a lot of darkness,” says Choudhuri, who was sick for a long time. “I grew up in a very confined space. My parents went through a lot of problems and my family fell apart.”
Choudhuri arrived with less than $100 in his pocket, and ended up staying for six months before he moved to New York, where he is now studying for an MA in Photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology. “This was like a bridge for me,” he says. “I felt the need to be there”.
The project he shot there takes its name from a Sanskrit phrase “Tat Tvan Asi”, meaning “that you are”. It relates to the idea that the self is the ultimate reality, and to the psychological exploration of Choudhuri’s own identity and sense of home. “This work, or rather the existence in this space, gave me a new direction,” he says.
“I deal with a lot of confrontations myself. I work on ideas of identity as well and the relationships I share with other people. I always believe that the personal is in a way also universal and political. There’s news of hatred, mob violence, and lynchings all the time. Sometimes there’s a necessity to reconcile with yourself and your surroundings. To question the darkness, but at the same time to not give up on looking for the light.”