Sharbendu De (b. 1978, Kolkata, West Bengal) grew up in the Andaman Islands, is a lens-based artist, academic, and a writer. He studied photography at the University of Westminster, London and presently teaches photography and visual arts at several universities and cultural institutions in India.
He has worked in seven natural disasters including the Asian Tsunami (2004) and the Nepal earthquake (2015), where he produced “Between Grief and Nothing” (2015-16) using a Nepali anthropomorphic form Lakhey to symbolise trauma as an aftermath of disasters. In 2020, Sharbendu was awarded a grant from KHOJ under their Air Toxicities project and from the MurthyNAYAK Foundation, to complete the series “An Elegy for Ecology,” a futuristic piece about human survival in a post-climate catastrophic world. It premiers at the Asian Art Biennial 2021 “Phantasmopolis” in Taiwan. In 2019, he started working on his next constructed series, “Man is Not an Island”. In 2018, Feature Shoot recognised him as an Emerging Photographer of the Year. He was also shortlisted for LensCulture Visual Storytelling Awards, 2019, and Lucie Foundation’s Emerging Artist of the Year Scholarship, 2018, among a host of other nominations.
Straddling between the documentary and conceptual approaches to storytelling, Sharbendu seeks answers in nature, the subconscious, dreams and symbolism, in pursuit of finding a new idiom. For his seven-year-long engagement with the indigenous Lisu tribe of Arunachal Pradesh, India, to create Imagined Homeland, 2013-19, he received grants from the Prince Claus Fund & ASEF, 2019, Lucie Foundation, 2018 and India Foundation for the Arts, 2017. The indigenous Tibeto-Burman Lisu community lives inside and around the intractable jungles of Namdapha on the Indo-Myanmar border of Changlang district, Arunachal Pradesh, India. It takes them three-six days on foot to reach the nearest town Miao by trekking 120-157 km each way. Despite the adversities, they cohabit symbiotically with nature revelling in its mysteries. Made over seven long years, Imagined Homeland evokes a sensorial experience of their world and their continuous quest for a ‘better’ world- the same quest that binds the human race together within the context of our own dreams, tribulations and aspirations. It further counters the ever existing colonial gaze.
During these years, he lived with them for months, cut-off from the rest of the world including family and friends, without phone, internet, electricity, television or healthcare- living amongst them their way. Life was hard. It was no longer romantic to live in the wild. And yet it was.
Sharbendu lives and works in New Delhi, India.