About This Project

Debmalya RayChoudhuri


Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship in the kingdom of the well and the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.”- Susan Sontag (Illness as Metaphor) “It is this very illness, the fear of its relapse and the aftermath of it, that provoked in me an inevitable necessity to feel again, an urgency to re-discover the desire to live, to maintain a diary, a diary that would become the most important fragment of life itself.” Confronting tuberculosis at the young age of 17 forced me to live in isolation for a prolonged period. My fear and shame of losing my youth and not living a meaningful life overwhelmed me. After a few years, the suicide of a lover put me in a similar position – a certain alienation, despair, and failure to come to terms with the trauma of loss and death. The necessity to find a purpose to live again was the only way out. They say tragedies shape the human in you. The Weight of the Earth reflects my understanding of human desire, gender, identity, and the often overlooked but complicated relationship between mourning and melancholia. I try to achieve this through my encounters with strangers – those who gave me shelter and a semblance of hope, eventually becoming my cherished friends. This diaristic journey includes a multitude of portraits of individuals often living complicated lives in America’s socially and politically fragmented landscape. The other part comprises images of the self, auto-portraits, and photographs, often taken by others, creating a playful back-and-forth between the self and the other. Through silent moments of proximity, in which life’s violent reality is often colored with a beautiful fantasy, I attempt to raise the question of self-affirmation here. The image binds my past to the present, weaving our collective and individual struggles together. Photography creates a fiction around us, and through this game of intimate exchanges, I come closer to understanding what it is to occupy a “queer” existence in today’s world, particularly as a South Asian “alien” in America? It confronts the ambiguity and anonymity of our individual and shared collective identities. This journey strives to look beyond the presupposed zones of identity and representation, by embracing the gestures of the body, desire, and space. It is an attempt to re-think the anonymous, the erotic, and the uncertain forms of sociality – death, disappearance, and the fragmentary passage of people and places.



7th edition