b. 1953, India
Serena Chopra offers the viewer a portal into the lives of her subjects. Chopra spent five years in Bhutan photographing a community as it experienced a shift towards modernity. The work, “Bhutan , A Certain Modernity” (2007) examines the changing environment and the people within it. Wide-views of the rural mountainous landscape flow into voyeuristic flashes of dancers at a nightclub; many of the same individuals from the clubs are seen intimately, praying at home or in a temple. Portraits of the royal family commingle with images of farmers in the hills, invoking the spectrum of serenity and chaos of Bhutan as it crosses between past and future.
Chopra’s visual study of the culture came at a pivotal time in Bhutan’s history. After 100 years of monarchy in 2007 the King, Jigme Sinye Wangchuck voluntarily abdicated the throne to his son, the crown prince of Bhutan. The Bhutanese’ emphasis on creating a “gross national happiness” was a serious attempt to ensure government policies reached beyond the usual concerns for financial growth. The Bhutanese inner path is highlighted and exposed through Chopra’s revealing images. Her portraits, landscapes and interior compositions capture life’s subtleties and complexities within the society in a formal and astute manner.
In her most recent project, Chopra is exploring the lives of residents of Majnu Ka Tilla, a Tibetan community in Delhi, where thousands of exiles have lived for nearly 40 years. Chopra photographs and interviews individuals, coupling image and text in a diary-like format, revealing the population’s views on life and a communal optimism that one day they will return to Tibet.
“I waned to get to know the real Tibetan, the person, his or her feelings, what his or her life was like in reality. Perhaps I would gain insight into what freedom meant to them.”— Serena Chopra
Chopra was born in Secunderabad, India. Her first body of work from Bhutan was exhibited in solo shows in New Delhi, Bhutan and New York. A publication of this work, Bhutan, A Certain Modernity was released in 2007 with a foreword by Her Majesty Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wanchuk. Chopra’s work has been included in group shows and published extensively in India.