Documenting life on India’s disappearing islands

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Driven by memories of his own experience, Sushavan Nandy’s project shows the disruptive effects of climate change and flooding on individual lives

Sushavan Nandy experienced the devastating effects of flooding first hand, as a child living in Jalpaiguri in North Bengal, India. Due to repeated floods in the 1990s, he and his family were forced to leave what remained of their home and relocate to Kolkata in 1996. “It not only affected the landscape and our property, it affected our human lives and relationships,” says Nandy, who was reminded of these struggles during an assignment in the Sundarbans, a cluster of low-lying islands in the Bay of Bengal, spread across India and Bangladesh.

There, rising waters caused by climate change is slowly drowning its coastal communities, and recognising the same disruption that Nandy experienced as a child, the photographer decided to begin a long-term personal project.

© Sushavan Nandy.
© Sushavan Nandy.

Ebbing Away of Identity with the Tides is shot over the course of three years, during repeated visits to the Mousuni, Ghoramara and Sagar islands. Nandy, who works as a freelance news photographer covering climate change, felt it was important to connect with the locals before shooting, and used their personal stories to guide his image-making process.

Although the work is rooted in documentary traditions of chronicling events and everyday life, the images themselves are left open to interpretation. The landscapes are melancholic, the portraits feel disconnected, and the lack of captions are intended to draw the viewer’s attention towards the emotion that these images and their context evoke. “They’re not a direct way of showing climate change in pictures,” says Nandy, “but they show how it is destroying lives, childhoods, and homes”.

© Sushavan Nandy.
© Sushavan Nandy.
Marigold Warner

Deputy Editor

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Deputy Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Elephant, Gal-dem, The Face, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.