2006 — student runner-up
Born in 1981 in the Indian state of Kashmir, Sumit grew up in a small traditional neighborhood of Katmandu, Nepal, where his family continues to reside. Sent to a boarding school in New Delhi, he later graduated from the University of Delhi. His exposure to a confluence of cultures from an early age gave him the ability to speak five different languages and provided Sumit with a unique perspective on the struggles and opportunities in South Asia.
In 2006 Sumit graduated from the Documentary & Photo Journalism program at the ICP (International Center of Photography) in New York.
Since then he has worked as a freelance photographer, covering Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. His work documents the plight of societies, disappearing cultural traditions and changing landscapes of South Asia.
In 2010 he was chosen by Photo District News magazine as one of the 30 Emerging Photographers to Watch.
In September 2010 he won the National Geographic All Roads Photography Program, Emerging photographer category, with his long term project in Kashmir "On Going Home".
He has published on Time, Glamour, Vrij Nederland, Shell UK, Soros Foundation Nepali Times, Dan Church Aid, Vanity Fair and Himal. He is based out of New Delhi.
When the iron bird flies in the sky and horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered cross the earth, and the Buddha dharma will spread to the land of the red-faced man. -Padmasambhava, eighth Buddhist saint
With 700 Tibetan Buddhist centers worldwide and 40 in New York City alone, Tibetan religion appears to be flourish in the West. But despite the relatively successful efforts of His Holiness the Dali Lama and his government’s efforts to preserve Tibetan Buddhism and culture in exile, increasing numbers of Tibetans seeking political asylum in the United States have created a new set of challenges for Tibet’s cultural conservationists.
Like any immigrant group, most Tibetans living in New York are preoccupied with making ends meet and improving their living situation. Many feel strongly about remaining connected to their culture, but without religious institutions or a strong monastic base, which have traditionally been the backbone of Tibetan religion and society, this is not easily accomplished. I intend to use photography and writing as tools to document how Tibetans in New York are trying to balance their socio-cultural needs with their personal aspirations.
Many of the young generation Tibetans were born, raised and educated in secular societies outside Tibet. They feel that Tibetans in Exile are drifting away from their culture and religion in order to adapt to the west. Two Tibetan Families and four Tibetan individuals have agreed to let me photograph and interview them inside their homes. The focus of my pictures will be Choeshums (altars), Thangkas (Tibetan Paintings) and other elements in confined spaces of their New York apartments. These traditional elements enable them to incorporate religious practices into their daily lives without the external structure of a religious community.
Another important aspect of the Tibetan lives in exile is commitment towards the freedom struggle against the Chinese regime in Tibet. On December 10 2005, I documented the ‘Free Tibet March’ in New York that was held to mark the International Human Rights Day.
Political ideologies are shifting and the new generation Tibetans are beginning to question what the nonviolence movement has achieved for the Tibetan cause. There’s a huge debate going on about whether religion is good for society. Some think that religion is the reason that they lost their country, since religion stops secular institutions from developing and impedes nation building.