Serena Chopra

Serena Chopra is a photographer based in New Delhi. She works on long-term projects that engage with communities and explore ideas around politics, development and migration that are interconnected to her own personal experiences. Her intimate photographic style combines portraiture, interiors and exteriors, and offers a portal into the lives of the people and places that she documents, without intrusion. She extensively traveled throughout Bhutan for over a period of twelve years, the outcome of which was three strong bodies of work, Bhutan: A Certain Modernity, Bhutan Echoes and The Ancients: Bhutan Diaries.

Chopra's first body of work was a personal project on Bhutan that developed over a period of twelve years at a pivotal time in the country’s history during its transition from a monarchy to parliamentary democracy. It was published as a monograph titled Bhutan, A Certain Modernity (PhotoInk, 2007) and exhibited in New York, Thimphu and across India, with accompanying photo books, The Ancients (Academic Foundation, 2015) and Bhutan Echoes (Tasveer, 2016).

Steering away from more familiar forms of representation, Chopra’s process and photographic practice developed with her second body of work, Majnu ka Tilla Diaries. She photographed and interviewed individuals from the Tibetan community residing at Majnu ka Tilla in New Delhi following the 1959 Tibetan uprising. Combining images and text for the first time, she presented these portraits alongside their stories, written in their own hand, in a diary-like format. This culminated in a solo show at sepiaEYE in New York and exhibitions at FotoFest 2018 Biennial in Houston and at the Harvard Art Museums in Boston. In 2022, Chopra self-published the book Majnu ka Tilla Diaries, first launching it in the Majnu ka Tilla colony with some of the people she photographed, and then in New Delhi and Dharamshala.

Inspired by her own personal history as the daughter of a partition survivor, Chopra began collecting stories from witnesses and survivors of Partition for her ongoing body of work, titled The Tale of Time. She made a series of portraits of Partition survivors along the India and Pakistan border, which are part of a permanent outdoor installation, commissioned by The Arts and Cultural Heritage, at the Partition Museum in Amritsar. More recently, Chopra met some of the witnesses of Partition who are currently residing in the Chandni Chowk area in New Delhi for a series of portraits that will be showcased at the second Partition Museum, which opens at Dara Shukoh Library in 2023.

During a visit to the 2010 Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, Chopra had a chance encounter with Sagar Puri ji, a nineteen year old Naga Sadhu. This led to a series, Along the Ganga (Academic Foundation, 2013) that was published as a photo book. The images consist of portraits that demonstrate a collaboration between Chopra and an uninhibited Sagar Puri ji as a performer for the camera. Turning her lens toward the French architecture of Chandernagore in West Bengal, Chopra was commissioned by Bonjour India to produce a new series for a group exhibition and accompanying catalogue at the Festival of France 2013.

Chopra’s work is part of the collections of the Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, USA, Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City, USA and the Partition Museums in Amritsar and New Delhi, India. She currently lives and works between New Delhi and Binsar, where she is developing a new, large-format series about India's disappearing forests that will be exhibited in New York in 2023-2024.

Bhutan: A Certain Modernity
Sunderam Tagore Gallery; New York, 2007
PhotoInk: New Delhi, 2007
Folk Heritage Museum; Thimpu, Bhutan, 2007

Bhutan Echoes
Travel Photo Jaipur Festival; Jaipur India, 2016
Tasveer Arts, Bangalore, India, 2016
The Harrington Street Arts Centre; Kolkata, India 2016
Pundole's, Focus Festival, Mumbai, India, 2017
NID, Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad, India, 2017
Bikaner House; Delhi, India 2017

Majnu Ka Tilla Diaries
sepiaEYE, New York, USA, 2016
FotoFest 2018 Biennial; Houston, Texas USA, 2018

sepiaEYE, 2021 (online exhibition)

The Tale of Time
Partition Museum, Amritsar, India, 2017 (permanent exhibition)
sepiaEYE, 2021 (online exhibition)

Eye-to-Eye Visual Arts Gallery, New Delhi India, 2004
Delhi Photography Festival, Women Photographers from SAARC Countries, Italian Cultural Center, New Delhi India, 2005
Photographing the Street: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, 2011
France Heritage, Bonjour India Festival, New Delhi 2013
Face Off, sepiaEYE, New York, USA, 2016
Crossing Lines, Constructing Home: Displacement and Belonging in Contemporary Art at the Harvard Art Museums, 2019