Get Featured:Suraj Bharma
Suraj has a salient message about the state of the States as his project aims to tackle some elusive societal woes.
My name is Suraj Bhamra, I am a 28 year old photographer from Detroit, Michigan (USA). I recently completed a project named “Loess” which I wanted to share with you in this post.
The project came to fruition after seeing the fallout from the antagonistic Donald Trump presidential campaign and subsequent contentious political climate that has been created focusing on using white-hot and hateful rhetoric against minority communities, the working class, LGBT groups, and other already marginalized communities. Being the son of immigrants, these words I was hearing were especially hurtful and led me to work out these thoughts and emotions through the medium of photography.
The bulk of the project was shot in Hamtramck, Michigan, a small city just two square miles in area surrounded on all four sides by Detroit. The reason I picked Hamtramck was due to its vibrant immigrant community. Originally a haven for Polish immigrants, the city has been blessed with an influx of immigrants from the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Bangladesh, and the Middle East. This intersection of cultures creates unique imagery as a byproduct of proximity. It’s not uncommon to see crosses and crescents, babushkas and burkas, churches and mosques all within a single frame of a photograph.
This project did not solely focus on immigrants being seen as immigrants but instead tried to incorporate imagery to build the narrative of immigrants fitting into the larger umbrella of being Americans in this body of work. This is why I wanted to make a concerted effort to include the ubiquitous symbols of American pride that sprout up everywhere in the city.
For example, there is a van that belongs to a mosque and Islamic school in Hamtramck. From the side the viewer would see the name of the mosque and school. If you walk around to the back of the van you would see a “God Bless America” bumper sticker. Come around to the front of the van and you’d see the “Drive it like you stole it” license plate frame. Depending on the time of day, you might even see the shadow from the cross atop the church across the street on the side of the van adjacent to the Arabic script when the sun is setting. This is a visual microcosm of the dialogue I wanted to create through this body of work.
Although Hamtramck is a wonderful city, it is not without it’s tribulations as in any community. I tried to also highlight this in the project by illustrating that no city is perfect and we should abandon the idea of perfection and instead focus on facing community issues together as neighbors to make the world a better place. This can be seen in the inclusion of imagery that does not support the idea of perfection and total tranquility. There is grit, there are sometimes problems, but the way we overcome those problems speaks more about us than the problems themselves.
I wanted the body of work to challenge perspectives of racism, xenophobia, and inequality through a visual message, which is why I decided to incorporate the use of visual aids such as mirrors and glass in juxtaposition to the imagery discussed above. Foregrounds and backgrounds are juggled indiscriminately using these visual aids to create a sense of elements changing place as the internal exchange of ideas between viewer and photograph rebounds back and forth.
Loess, a loosely compacted sedimentary deposit commonly found in the American Midwest, was chosen as the name of this project as a metaphor for the various communities coming together to settle the American landscape, much like that of the wind-blown particles that come to form Loess. Although calcareous, porous, and loosely formed, it remains striking in its golden hue and important in it’s foundation of our landscape.
The entire project was shot using my Leica M2 outfitted with a Carl Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 Biogon lens. I used a combination of Kodak Tri-X and Ilford HP5+ films which were developed by myself using my Jobo ATL-3 before being scanned using my Fuji Frontier SP-3000 scanner.
Twenty-three photographs are currently on display and for sale at Oloman Gallery in Hamtramck, Michigan. The book features fifty-one images in total and can be found here
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