A lens-based conceptual artist, writer and academic, Sharbendu De is notable for his work on India’s indigenous communities, ecology and issues of environmental conservation. He has documented the impact of several natural disasters in the region, including the 2014 Jammu & Kashmir floods, the Uttarakhand flash floods (2013 and 2014) and the 2015 Nepal earthquake.
De grew up in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where his father – a hobbyist photographer – would often take photographs of him and his brother. In 1991, he enrolled in a bachelor’s degree in commerce at the University of Calcutta, after which he studied journalism at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, he spent five years volunteering with non-governmental organizations in the affected regions. In 2010, he graduated in photojournalism from the University of Westminster, London, UK and began pursuing photography professionally.
Imagined Homelands (2013–ongoing), De’s best known work, is a seven-year-long project on the indigenous Lisu tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. It seeks to document the community while consciously rejecting the colonial-anthropological style of photography popular within such work. Instead, it uses anecdotes and folklore from the Lisus to stage and create dreamlike images. Another series, Between Grief and Nothing (2015–16), is a fictional documentary work that similarly employs symbolism, mythology and performance to depict the feelings of fear and despair that arose in the aftermath of the Nepal Earthquake of 2015. Some of his other documentary projects include Dogs on India’s Defence (2013), The Country Without a Post Office (2014) and Rebuild Uttarakhand (2014).
De’s photography has been featured in national and international magazines such as Motherland, The Caravan, PIX, Lensculture and Invisible Photographer Asia among others. His work has also been a part of several exhibitions, including Encontros da Imagem, Portugal (2016), Photo Kathmandu (2017), and Format, UK (2019). For Imagined Homelands, he received grants from the Lucie Foundation, the Prince Claus & ASEF Fund, and the India Foundation for the Arts. He has also collaborated with organisations such as Oxfam India, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Wildlife Fund.
At the time of writing, De lives and works in New Delhi, where he teaches photography and visual arts at Jamia Millia Islamia and the Sri Aurobindo Centre for Art & Communication.
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