Sushavan Nandy’s haunting series highlights the effects of rising sea-levels on the Sundarbans region in India

Through ambient, melancholy photographs, Sushavan attempts to preserve the identity of a region losing its history.

9 April 2020


As a child, Sushavan Nandy didn’t have a camera in the household, instead his family would “frequent the studio to get our annual family portraits done.” It was only after starting work as an animator that the Naihati-based photographer gifted himself a camera and “started exploring the world through its lens.”

His work was swiftly noticed by an agency who hired him as a freelance news photographer, however, he realised not long after that he wasn’t happy working in that environment. “The experiences I had while photographing on the streets were reduced to captions,” Shushavan tells us, “the stories were reported using single images which I felt was insufficient to explain the complexities of the sorties.” He then left his job to pursue grander photographic projects, believing that “time brings depth to a story and with depth comes empathy from an audience.” His aim is to use the medium of photography to provide a voice to the “disposed and marginalised” and “to share stories which have the power to question our preconceived notions and result in social inclusion.”

Sushavan’s practice is primarily one of understanding and patience. He gives a great deal of time and consideration in order to allow himself to fully understand the content and contexts of what he is undertaking, telling us that “I spend a few days working for my commissions and then I return to the place without any objective of making work there.” Sushavan trails a location and spends time with the locals, collecting tales of the place and personal stories. The sense of nurturing that Sushavan shows towards what he photographs is mirrored in his consideration for the act of image-making itself. “I always nurtured an active interest towards the camera,” Sushavan tells us, growing up fascinated by “the idea of seeing a tactile print of an image which captures a moment in the past.” This sentiment, one of taking and preserving a moment in time, has been carried by Sushavan throughout his practice; leading him to his latest series Ebbing away of identity with the tides.


Sushavan Nandy: Ebbing away of identity with the tides

Ebbing away of identity with the tides explores the disastrous impact climate change has had on the Sundarbans region of India, focusing specifically on how the islands of this region have been losing their identities as a result. “It not only affected landscapes and our property, it affected our human lives and relationships,” Sushavan explains. “The villagers of the Sundarban India, are unaware of the term ‘sea-level rise,’ but their lives are a testament to it.” In collaboration with the locals, collecting their stories, histories and livelihoods that are falling victim to the flooding, Sushavan conveys “the unrecorded stories of the people living in these islands” in order “to bring their struggles to mainstream consciousness.”

In a place of childhoods, families, jobs and stories, we find uncertainty. The region knows what came before, but no one knows what may lie ahead. The photographs found in Ebbing away of identity with the tides hauntingly, yet beautifully, convey a place that is lost. Through an ambient and honest lens, Sushavan presents absent landscapes adrift from context and history, partnered with melancholy portraits of residents that find themselves amidst this limbo. The sense of detachment shown in the portraits is felt by the audience, and Sushavan delicately shows the impact of climate change through the physical effects made on the land but, more importantly, he draws our attention to the people who are suffering.

In retrospect, Sushavan figured that the choice to document the Sundarbans region was one “rooted to very personal experiences,” explaining that when he was a child his father was “posted in the district of Jalpaiguri in North Bengal India” an area “prone to flooding.” His vivid memories of a childhood in that region struck by natural disaster have stayed with him, something that strongly resonates in the images made in the Sundarbans region. In Sushavan’s scenes, we feel the melody of the ghostly landscape, and the hazy memories of people living through it. We are sent somewhere we feel, but we do not recognise.

Ebbing away of identity with the tides first began in 2017 and is an ongoing work. When considering the timescale of the project, Sushavan says: “I have been working on this project for more than a couple of years and I don’t really know when and how it will end.”

GallerySushavan Nandy: Ebbing away of identity with the tides

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About the Author

Harry Bennett

Hailing from the West Midlands, and having originally joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in March 2020, Harry is a freelance writer and designer – running his own independent practice, as well as being one-half of the Studio Ground Floor.

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