Suraj Nongmaithem’s pictures sensitively capture his culture

The winner of i-D Summer School’s photography call out was a delicately formed ode to culture and use of colour.

by Douglas Greenwood
08 December 2020, 11:15am

Throughout the summer, i-D enlisted a group of some of our most trusted and beloved contributors to look through the work of the next generation of photographers, stylists and fashion writers. And after months of submissions to i-D Summer School, we’ve settled on winners for all three. Last to be crowned? The India-based fashion and documentary photographer Suraj Nongmaithem, whose work interrogates the boundaries of youth culture, gender and social traditions. 

His pictures, all shot against a beautiful, pastoral backdrop, place subjects in both traditional South Asian dress and otherwise familiar, pared back, modern day fashion, allowing them both to share the same frame. There’s a sensitivity to it; an impression that we are getting a deep insight into the people he captures.

Suraj Nongmaithem

In his submission statement, Suraj said the following: “Inspired by Ketaki Sheth’s series ‘On Belonging’ and her socially driven portraits, I wanted to create a story about the youth culture and traditions of North-Eastern Indians. Usually discriminated against by the majority of mainland Indians due to their ‘South-East Asian’ appearance and culture, the importance of representation of North Eastern India is more prevalent than ever. The story explores the lives of the youth in this beautiful cloud city of Shillong, while focusing on traditional handlooms passed down from generation to generation. Nafisa, Sen and Kenny hold their tradition and nature close to their heart, while adapting to the ever growing influence of western culture.”

“Without meeting [him], I already have an understanding of their culture,” Campbell Addy, who judged the line-up and awarded Suraj the top prize said. “I was taken aback by the use of colours, the simplicity, and then upon reading [his statement], they made me fall in love with the images even more.” Check out the shortlist via the video below, and see Suraj’s winning submission in full.

Suraj Nongmaithem
Suraj Nongmaithem
Suraj Nongmaithem


All images courtesy Suraj Nongmaithem

Campbell Addy
Summer School
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