Fragments of the Dying Man

Debmalya Ray Choudhuri


About the Project


Confronting tuberculosis at the age of 17 forced me to live a life in isolation for a long period of time–part of which was associated with stigma; part with my own fear and shame of not having lived fully and losing time.  After the suicide of a lover, to live again was the only way out. 

Tragedies shape the human in you.

The act of  photography is a pretext to getting closer. To continue living a dual life: One, in a vulnerable position of solitude. The other, within the personal space of strangers. Some stay. Some fade away.

 Fragments of the Dying Man is a diary of  fragility, loss and desire. A play of images, words and performance.

It oscillates between Isolation and Intimacy.  Day and Night. What’s in control and what’s not. The lines are blurred.

Much like the life lived, the images are soiled, weary, damaged and fragile. Sometimes seen through a screen, sometimes re-photographed and sometimes reproduced moments of spontaneity..

This journey passes through lands that are vast yet confined, looking outside for a semblance of love and sometimes inside, often photographed by strangers surrendering to their will. But who is looking at whom? All merge into one another. It is a faint reminder of a past that haunts me again and again.  It is a  past filled with anger, despair and desolation.

At the end are my encounters with strangers with whom I share moments, during my wanderings. Those that gave me a shelter. And a semblance of hope.
Encounters and spaces. Confined, intimate and visceral. Like me, everyone I desire through an image lives a life of ambiguity. Someone was an androgynous erotic performer, someone a “cam girl”, someone is a stigmatized sex worker, someone a survival of abuse, a trans friend, a survivor of HIV and violence, wanting to be desired and to desire through an image, as a way to survive in a hyper-capitalist society that is slowly consuming us all. For me, our identity is not based on what the person does to exist in a world where power dictates social norms and moral codes. Different worlds struggle to exist, finding a way out only through the camera, without the fear of being judged. Bound together through the logic of the lure.

Photographing leads people to share their most intimate experiences and some break down in the process. This journey is a Zeno’s paradox: The closer you get to someone, the more distanced you become. It is in these contradictions that I thrive and live my reality.

How photography creates a fiction around us, and how through this fiction, of promiscuous exchanges, we get closer to understanding what it means to be here. People are the actors and directors of this constructed stage of desire, trying to understand their body and the spectrum of their human experience through an image. Clothed, barely or nothing at all. A subtle vulnerability that becomes the symbol of an unspoken strength and sexual power.

The Fragments is based on disavowals. It confronts the ambiguity and anonymity of our identity, It is an attempt to question what we consider beauty- through my “poor images”, that reflect the poverty of the human condition, and my very own, in what I consider the “Economy of desire” that engulfs us all.

The camera IS the protagonist, subjecting me and those around me to a vulnerable position of solitude and a way of identifying with our body- confronting the dichotomies of our position. In its experience with the “queer” body, desire and space, this journey strives to look beyond the “presupposed zones of identity and representation, to think of the anonymous, erotic and uncertain forms of “sociality” ” – death, disappearance and the fragmentary passage of people and places. 

Through this, I try to live up to my own questioning of desire and the inarticulate form that sits between proximity and promiscuity and is, maybe called love.