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Neither Here Nor There: Bengali Homes In India And America

Untitled from Avi Gupta's series There Is Here. i i

Untitled from Avi Gupta's series There Is Here. Courtesy of Avi Gupta hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Avi Gupta
Untitled from Avi Gupta's series There Is Here.

Untitled from Avi Gupta's series There Is Here.

Courtesy of Avi Gupta

A framed poster of white babies hangs over a bed. Where is it? It could be Washington, D.C., or it could be Kolkata, India. But photographer Avi Gupta won't say anything more. (Full disclosure: We once worked together and share a bond over our first-generation experiences.)

In his series of similarly ambiguous images, Gupta is exploring differences and similarities between Bengali homes in India and the U.S.

"Homes aren't just a portrait of ourselves," he says, "but of how we've adapted to life."

Gupta is referring to the immigrant experience of moving from one country to another, of taking what you can and recreating what you know. Conversely, he is also referring to the way Western culture has permeated the East.

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Gupta's parents emigrated from India to Arlington, Va., in the mid-1970s, not anticipating they would spend most of their lives away from home. They met at a party in their 20s. "Dad spoke Bengali and Mother spoke Hindi," says Gupta, "so they had to communicate in English."

When Gupta recalls growing up in the U.S., he says he identifies most with the feeling of being the "other."

"I didn't feel American or Indian. I didn't feel a sense of place, of belonging," he says.

There were norms in his parents' Bengali-style home that were different than the homes of his friends. It's a common experience shared by most immigrant children, which inspired Gupta's photo series, There Is Here.

Gupta wants the scenes to be contemplative, ambiguous. He purposefully left each image untitled, with no indicator as to where the image was taken. "The more I spell out," he says, "the less people walk away with."

This project debuted at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in East Anglia, U.K., and was commissioned by Emily Crane, who explains how viewers have responded:

"[It] made them look at their own homes," she says. "The way they display select objects and images, and the way particular places are protected or made more special than others."

To see more of Avi Gupta's work, visit his website.

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