“To question the darkness, but at the same time to not give up on looking for the light.”

Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri
Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri

Tat Tvam Asi is a psychological expedition through a space hidden away from the chaos of the urban city life. Surrounded by the news of mob lynchings, political violence, hatred and confronting personal crises, and my own sickness after a year of suffering, provoked me to go on a journey, not knowing the destination. A place where my very identity would matter less. An unknown land. This helped me to restore a balance in myself and to find my position in the world again.

It is a phrase in Sanskrit which translates to Thou Art That (That you Are) in English. Although this phrase manifests itself through different literal interpretations in religious texts in India, it essentially connects us to a sense of being, a sense of the self, of who we are. In my life, this bears significance to my sense of belonging in a place. Growing up I was always intrigued by the idea of a utopia, a world where love would triumph over ego. That would go on to define who I was. However, the world is not meant to be so. It never was. Seeing my own family fall apart and confronting the loss of a loved one made me ask myself what exactly is Home? Does Home define one’s Identity? Can any place far away from where I live define my “Home”? Can I construct a reality in my mind and call it my “Home”?

That is when Rishikesh happened to me. An escape from the starkness of reality or was it even real? I don’t have those answers. Maybe I never will. Maybe it was a way to confront what could not change, a pain, an agony, an abyss of despair. Rishikesh is a “home” to many: Broken hearts, lost souls, dreamers alike. A dream tucked away in the foothills of the largest mountains in India, the Himalayas. This journey is not so about the place as much as it is about my own void and the need to look for a place, I could call mine, the need to belong somewhere. My sense of incompleteness being projected into a vast space of light, often interspersed with fragments of dark. In this work, people exist for me but only as inconspicuous identities, fragile trace of the body lost. Maybe those hidden figures were just my projections: any man who is lost looking to find his belonging, to pray for an answer.

Photographing the same space of land for a prolonged time became a way to reconcile. To observe, absorb and react was the only way out. The rhythmic spaces between the images, between nothingness and appearance of primordial rocks, balancing between light and dark becomes my reality, my life. I start reacting to every detail of life and nature around me. In all the while, I only photographed a young guy as a reflection of my portrait, hiding behind shrubs and thorns, wanting to come out and yet having a resistance to confront. That was my self-portrait. My reality then.

I do not know if the experience is a shared journey or just mine. All I can say is that this temperance of a "Home" called Rishikesh is a part of my living truth. I am there, distant from the reality of a past. I am there, all by myself in a world of my own. My “Home”.

“To question the darkness, but at the same time to not give up on looking for the light.”

Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri
Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri
Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri
Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri
Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri
Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri
Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri
Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri

Could you tell us a little about this image? 

This photograph is an extract from my long-term work Tat Tvam Asi. It reminds me of an uncanny solace that I found in a place far from home. In troubled times we live in, we often get lost in the humdrum of chaos and this might let us lose our own identity. Sometimes home is a feeling, a state of being. This photograph talks about my existence in a place tucked away in the largest mountains in India. Religious or not, spiritual or not, I have no answers to that. I do not believe in those words.

This is a personal journey, a psychogeography. Everything else is meant to confine us in a system corrupt by power and greed.

Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri
Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri
Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri
Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri
Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri
Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri
Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri
Tat Tvam Asi - Debmalya Roy Choudhuri

Biography

Debmalya Ray Choudhuri (b. 1992) is a photographer and writer from India. Confronting some personal crises and death of a lover, he left India and is now based in New York. He deals with the themes of desire, love, home and memory using a very personal and intense approach. He sees photography as an interface with the world, a way to confront it, a way to desire and define his position in the world.

He attended The International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York for a while and currently works on long term projects on ideas of desire and identity.

Recently he has worked with an Italian research school Spazio Labo under mentor Elinor Carucci as part of Photo Workshop New York and have also worked under Antoine d’Agata for a Magnum workshop in Brooklyn, New York. He has recently assisted Antoine d’Agata at a Magnum workshop in Miami Photo Festival, 2019 and worked as an assistant for Codex, Antoine d’Agata’s first US retrospective.

More of Debmalya Ray Choudhuris' photography can be found at: 

Instagram: @debmalyachoudhuri

www.rayd.space