Magnum Photos' Sohrab Hura Discusses His Deeply Personal Work
Last night, Milk Gallery had the pleasure of hosting a talk with Sohrab Hura, a West Bengal raised photographer and one of legendary agency Magnum Photos‘ new nominees, who are currently being featured in Magnum Photos: New Blood, a Milk Gallery exhibition. Magnum Photos is a renowned photography cooperative known for representing legendary photographers like documentarian Martin Parr, as well as its diverse photo archive. Hura, who joined Magnum in 2014, recently presented us with his new portfolio in hopes of reaching associate status with Magnum (one step before becoming a full member). And given the fact that full members own part of the company and have access to all four offices in New York, Paris, Tokyo, and London, this admissions process is not taken lightly.
Hura played us a slide show of his photo series that he shot in his home in India, titled, “Sweet Life, Chapter 2: Look It’s Getting Sunny Outside!!!” The photos, he said, were supposed to act as a journal, and so required little narrative or narration. And act as a journal they certainly did; threaded throughout the images that, together, depicted his home life, was a more specific and kind of heart-wrenching story of his mother and her dog, Elsa, a mangy, but sweet boxer. Gradually, images depicting their close relationship—playing together, sleeping side-by-side—morphed into images of Elsa’s visibly languishing health. By the end, Elsa is seen wrapped up in blankets, unable to move, as Hura’s mother feeds her by hand.
Hura shared many pieces of his work looking past his personal life and into the outside world. He jumped through various mediums like photography, film, short story, and a slideshow of his life growing up with detailed, yet humorous notes. His work is a mixture of overwhelmingly personal, tender, rough, and at times can seem unkind.
I asked Hura if he felt uneasy or possibly relieved about some of the photos from his portfolio that are meant to be incredibly personal.
“When I realized that I would initiate [a conversation about my photos], for example, my entire body would shake,” explained Hura. “My voice would shake, you know, my legs would shake. I was scared to talk about it. But then, over time when people would talk to me they usually didn’t talk about the photography. They would say, ‘My aunt has the same thing,’ or ‘My brother has bipolar [disorder].’”
“I knew the feeling I was experiencing was going beyond photography,” he continued. “I realized that over the years, even right now talking to you about it, it’s not like I’m very comfortable. I’m still a little self-conscious, but I know that it’s not the same for me now as it was before. One of the reasons I looked inwards was because I always felt that as a photographer we all go out and make photos. I found that looking at rural India and looking at someone else’s problems, someone else’s misery, and I have all my shit back home—I ended up feeling hypocritical. So, this is why I felt that I needed to acknowledge my own life and then talk about [other] people’s lives.”
Hura’s work currently featured in Milk Gallery is titled “The Song of Sparrows in a Hundred Days of Summer.” It captures the emotional struggle with his mother’s schizophrenia and deep isolation in a village in central India. His photography tells a deeply intimate story–it can be hard to watch at times, but for Hura, it’s a brave reveal. It’s deeply intimate work, and one that does not leave the viewer’s imagination for a very, very long time.
Check out more work from Sohrab Hura at Magnum Photos. The Milk Gallery Exhibition Magnum Photos: New Blood, will be on view through May 8th.
Additional images by Cole Giordano.
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