Indo-American arts council's 7th annual erasing borders 2010:
Exhibition of contemporary Indian art of the Diaspora
Neil Chowdhury
Neil Chowdhury


Artist Statement

For the past eight years, my creative efforts in photography have centered on my interest in exploring my Indian heritage. Growing up in the United States, isolated from Indian culture fostered the cultivation of imaginative fantasy about the land of my ancestry. My father died without telling me much about the culture in which he grew up or the story of his early life there. My knowledge of India ripened from exoticized Western media accounts. None of this prepared me for the discovery of the masala mix of complexity, misery, joy and beauty of contemporary India that I finally had the opportunity to see for myself. Having now made several trips to India, and collected a wealth of photographic images, videotape, and journal writings, I am shaping this material into distinct bodies of art work that document my experiences encountering Indian culture, and connect and contrasts my youthful fantasies of India with my adult experience building a relationship with the people and land of my ancestry.

In the series of digital photomontages, "Waking from Dreams of India", I hope to symbolize the merging of the actual lived journey with the expectations I carried for half a lifetime by collaging images from different times and places to juxtapose ancient and modern, mythical and real, imagined and lived. Documentary images from India's streets, "calendar art" imagery of Hindu deities, icons of Western materialism, and the ubiquitous images of flavor-of-the-month Bollywood icons have all added vibrant layers to India's visual culture, and find a place in my art.

Hoping to create a more documentary look at one aspect of Indian life, last summer (2008) I spent six weeks in Mumbai, making color documentary images of life on the street as I witness it. I have used these images to create what is still a work in progress: An 8'55" stop motion video that chronicles my experience in a rapid time-lapse style that attempts to capture the intensity and vibrancy of this great city as seen by a curious visitor. This video uses a score mixed from popular Bollywood hit songs that have been remixed with American hip hop music to reflect my own mixed cultural origins. I would welcome the opportunity to work with a musician/ composer of East Asian/Desi origin to rescore this work with an original soundtrack.

While in Mumbai I also made a series of large format black and white portraits of vendors and casual laborers on the streets. These workers endure heat, dust, and police harassment as they sell their services and wares in makeshift stalls or hard fought patches of sidewalk. Still making up a large part of India's economy, they are ignored by the legions of pedestrians, until the bargains they offer are just too good to pass up, and then a sudden evening crowd gathers, jostling for space, fingering the goods, and driving hard bargains that enable the vendor to eat another day. I hope that my portraits will enable viewers to take another look and notice these often ignored individuals.

The next chapter of my own experience has brought me to Iselin, New Jersey and Jackson Heights, Queens, NY. Forty years ago, my father made the journey from India to Great Britain, where he finished college and married my mother, then traveled to the United States, with my infant self in tow. At that time, there was no "Little India" within an American city or town, and my father had to start a new family and life without the comfort of any reminders from his own culture. This experience has changed for newer immigrants, as within the last 20 years, Indian enclaves have formed, to provide a cultural continuity and familiarity to the South Asian Diaspora. With this new body of work, another series of large format black and white portraits, I focus on the workers who have traveled from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to the South Asian ethnic enclaves in New York and New Jersey that make up "Little India." I want to make portraits of these people as they create their own history and traditions in an adopted land. I can't help but wonder how life for my own family would have been different, had such a community been available when we made the same journey.


Neil Chowdhury is an artist working in photography, digital video and mixed media. His work explores the relationships between individuals, their societies, and environments in different cultures. Currently he is working on projects exploring his Indian heritage. Mr. Chowdhury is an assistant professor and director of the photography program at Cazenovia College, Cazenovia, New York. He has also taught at Zayed University, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan and the University of Washington, Seattle. He received his MFA in photography at the University of Washington. His photography and digital video works have been exhibited widely in the United States and abroad.


University of Washington, 2001 MFA Photography. Emphasis on digital Imaging, digital video
Fairhaven College, Western Washington University, 1990 BA Photography
Lansing Community College, Lansing, MI 1987 AS Photojournalism, Summa cum Laude


William Benton Museum of Art, Mansfield Connecticut, November 2008, two works in the permanent collection
NYFA Strategic Opportunity Grant, Feb 2008, New York Foundation for the Arts Strategic Opportunities Stipend to produce the India Interpreted exhibition at the Kirkland Arts Center, Clinton, NY, Feb 2008
Garry B Fritz Imagemaker Award, March 2005 for best first time imagemaker presentation with outstanding achievement, Society for Photographic Education National Conference, Portland, OR
Zayed University Professional Development Grant for Basic Research, December 2005. For travel, research in India
Zayed University Professional Development Grant for Conference Participation, December 2004. For SPE Conference presentation
University of Washington School of Art Marsh Merit Scholarship, Seattle, WA, fall 2000,
University of Washington Art Department-CARTAH Recruitment Scholarship, Seattle, WA, 2000,
Lansing Community College, Lansing, MI, fall 1986, full tuition scholarship for academic excellence. Dean's list

Residencies, Presentations

Hungarian Multicultural Center Budapest Artist In Residence Program, December 2009, Csopak, Hungary
New York State Summer School of the Arts program, Oswego, NY, July 2009, visiting Artist's Lecture
Trinity College, Hartford, CT, March 2009, visiting artist's lecture
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, November 2008, visiting artist's lecture
Galichnik Art Colony, August 2007, Galichnik, Macedonia, Artist's residency
Society for Photographic Education 44th National Conference, March 2007, Miami, Florida, conference lecture, Teaching Photography in Dubai: An Emerging Regional Photo Scene in the UAE
2006 Wheeler Conference on World Affairs, Cazenovia College, Cazenovia, NY, September, 2006 conference presentation: Intercultural Understanding in the Aftermath
Mexican International Family Strengths Conference, Cuernavaca, Mexico, June 2005, peer reviewed paper, student video presented in collaboration with Annita Sani, Cultural Globalization and Family Challenges in the United Arab Emirates
Society for Photographic Education National Conference, Portland, OR March, 2005 competitive peer reviewed artist's lecture: Waking from Dreams of India
Can Serraut International Arts Center, Barcelona, Spain, July-August 2004. Artist's residency
Cholamandal Artists' Village, Chennai, India, January 2002. Artist's residency


Gallery At Penn College, Williamsport, PA, November, 2009, Erasing Borders, 2009, juried group exhibition of Indian Diasporic art, curated by Vijay Kumar and Amina Ahmed
Queens Museum of Art, Queens, NY, September 2009, Erasing Borders, 2009, juried group exhibition of Indian Diasporic art, curated by Vijay Kumar and Amina Ahmed
Gallery Project, Ann Arbor, MI, August 2009, Contemporary India, Juried Group exhibition curated by Kathryn Myers
Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, Project Space, New York, NY, August 2009 Erasing Borders, 2009, juried group exhibition of Indian Diasporic art, curated by Vijay Kumar and Amina Ahmed
Cazenovia Counterpoint Festival, Cazenovia, NY, July 2009, Juried Group Exhibition
Everywhere, Nowhere, American Center, Delhi, India, April 2009, juried group exhibition curated by Kathryn Myers
Art 4 Barter, New York, NY, March 2009, juried group exhibition curated by Antonio Puri
The Dowd Fine Art Gallery, March 2009, Erasing Borders, 2009, juried group exhibition of Indian Diasporic art, curated by Vijay Kumar and Amina Ahmed
Cazenovia College Gallery, Cazenovia, NY, March 2009, biannual faculty exhibition
Gershwin Hotel, New York, NY, February 2009. Gershwin India Pop, juried group exhibition, art festival
The International Festival of Sacred Arts, Delhi, India, February 2009, juried group exhibition Everywhere Nowhere, curated by Kathryn Myers
Jorgenson Gallery, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CN, October 2008, Regarding India, three person exhibition with Kathryn Meyers and Hanuman Kambil, curated by Kathryn Myers and Barry Rosenberg
Northlight Gallery, Arizona State University, September 2008, Society of Photographic Educators Multi Cultural Caucus juried exhbition, curated by Ariel Shanberg
Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY, June 2008, The Object and Beyond: 2008 Everson Biennial, Biennial juried group exhibition curated by Edward Winkleman
Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center, Auburn NY, July 2008, Made in NY 2008 juried group exhibition curated By Jen Pepper and John McQueen
Kirkland Art Center, February, 2008, India Interpreted, two person exhibition with Barry Perlus, curated by Mary Murray, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute
Farmworks, Cazenovia, NY, October 2007, Collaborative exhibition with Jen Pepper, in association with NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, Critz Farms, SUNY ESF, Matthew Potteinger, Cazenovia Area Community Development Association and Natalia Mount
Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center, Auburn, NY, August 2007, Made in New York, juried group exhibition curated by Buzz Spector and Michael Sickler, pinhole photography
Photomedia Center, Erie, PA, 2007, Juried Exhibition, digital montage from Waking from Dreams of India
CAS Gallery of the University of Miami, March 2007, SPE Multicultural Caucus Exhibition, juried group exhibition, curated by Miriam Romais, Waking From Dreams of India, digital photomontages
Lewis & Clark College, Portland, OR 2007, Third Annual Ray Warren Multicultural Symposium Exhibition, Video, You're so Smart, collaboration with Françoise Duresse
Cazenovia College Art Gallery, Cazenovia, NY, January 2007, Annual Faculty Exhibition, digital photography
Cazenovia College Art Gallery, Cazenovia, NY, October 2006, Photo Narrative, group exhibition by invitation, curated by Jennifer Pepper. Waking From Dreams of India digital photo collages
Bamboo Lane Gallery, Los Angeles CA, July 2006, juried group exhibition
Art Wallah Festival, Los Angeles, CA, June 2006, juried group exhibition, Waking from Dreams of India, digital photo collages
VIII Salón Internacional de Arte Digital, Havana, Cuba, June 2006, juried video festival. Metropolis, Collaborative video work with LABTEST
Frontal Flatness, April 2006, Seattle, WA group exhibition at W Hotel, juried group exhibition curated by Dino Martini. Mexican Time Lapse, video installation
File Festival, Sao Paulo, Brazil, November 2005. Juried new media festival. Metropolis, a collaborative video installation with LABTEST
Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, September 2005, Snap to Grid! Unjuried group exhibition, digital photography
Les Rencontres d'Arles, HypeGallery, Arles, France, July 2005, group exhibition, digital photography
Chashama Gallery, New York, NY, April 2005. Contributed to collaborative video installation by invitation Labtest: Transmission 42nd St.
Overground Gallery, Abu Dhabi, UAE, December 2004, Solo Exhibition, digital photography and digital video installation: Waking from Dreams of India
File Festival, Sao Paulo, Brazil, November 2004. Juried new media festival. Labtest: Transmission, a collaborative video installation with LABTEST at the Hipersonica live performance event
Abu Dhabi Cultural Center, Abu Dhabi, UAE, June, 2004, Zayed University Faculty group exhibition. Digital photography
Total Arts, Dubai, UAE, May 2004, Zayed University Faculty group exhibition. Digital photography
Chicago Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL, March 2003. Masses Video Installation shown as adjunct to the Paul Berger Beyond Digital Novelty retrospective exhibition, curated by Rod Slemmons, Director CMCP
Berozkina Gallery, Kirkland, WA September 2001. Violent Movie Deaths, digital images in group exhibition juried by invitation, Twelve Northwest Masters
Consolidated Works, Seattle, WA August 2001. Return to Babylon video installation shown in Dandelion Productions Dimension Elevator immersive four channel video environment. Juried by invitation.
Consolidated Works, Seattle, WA July 2001. Return to Babylon video installation shown in Dandelion Productions Dimension Elevator immersive four channel video environment. Juried by invitation.
Phoenix Festival, Klickitat, OR July 2001 Masses video installation shown in Dandelion Productions' Dimension Elevator immersive four channel video environment. Juried by invitation.
Vital Five Productions, Seattle, WA June 2001 Before and After: Juried group photography exhibition.
Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, May 2001. Masters of Fine Arts thesis exhibition: Masses, Multi channel digital video and photography installation
Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, spring 2000, juried by invitation. Collaborated with video installation artist Tony Oursler for The Empty Cabinet exhibition. Digital video content
Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, December 2000 juried by invitation. Terraform1: Digital multimedia collaborative installation
The Jacob Lawrence Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, November 2000, Works on Paper juried competition, exhibition
Center on Contemporary Art (COCA), Seattle, WA, June 2000. Video piece Take Back the Streets included in The Whole World Is Watching juried group exhibition
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA, March 2000, the Pacific Northwest Annual Unjuried Artist Slide exhibition
Photo Circle Gallery, Seattle, WA, February 2000, Pushpin Invitational group exhibition
The Jacob Lawrence Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, January 2000, MFA Works in Progress. Juried group exhibition
The Jacob Lawrence Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, November 1999, Works on Paper. Juried competition
Zoots, Detroit, MI, November 1996. Solo exhibition
Quicksilver Gallery, Bellingham, WA, 1990. Solo exhibition
Fairhaven College, Bellingham, WA, June 1989. Solo exhibition
Geneva Gallery, Bellingham, WA, 1988. Solo exhibition
Benham Gallery, Seattle, WA, February 1988. Solo exhibition

Professional Experience

Cazenovia College, Cazenovia, NY August 2006-Present. Assistant professor, photography, Division of Art and Design, Director of Photography Program
Zayed University, Dubai, UAE, August 2003-June 2006. Assistant professor, Art and Design Department
College for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI October-June, 2003. Adjunct faculty, Photography Department
Center for Advanced Research Technology in the Arts and Humanities CARTAH University of Washington, Seattle, WA September 1999 to June 2001. Graduate Student Assistant, digital imaging and digital video consultant
University of Washington, Seattle, WA, summer 2000, Instructor of Record Art 240, Basic Photography
Ford Motor Company Creative Photographic Unit, Dearborn, MI, 1994-1999 (Automotive Support Group Agency) Technical and creative photographer.
Ford Motor Company Photo Instrumentation Unit, Dearborn, MI, 1997-1999. Automotive Support Group Agency. Photo instrumentation photographer documenting crash tests at Ford Proving Grounds Crash Barrier and Safety Lab facility with multiple high-speed 16mm film cameras and digital still photography.

Professional Affiliations

College Art Association
Society for Photographic Education

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