Samar Singh Jodha is a photographer and installation artist who, over the last 25 years, has
been using photography, film and public art projects to address various issues such as
community development and conservation. Some of these include: BHOPAL – A Silent
Picture is a multimedia installation which documents the aftermath of the Bhopal gas
tragedy of 1984. The installation is housed in a 40-foot container, and has visited many
locations globally, most notably the London Olympics. OUTPOST is a visual disquisition on
spontaneous individual expression in a rapidly homogenising global culture. Discarded
containers fashioned into habitat by miners were deployed in a pictorial trope at the 55th
Samar is a regular speaker on TED and TEDx including speaking at TEDxVienna on the
artist’s role in sustainability and capacity building.
I first came across members of the Tai Phake tribe in the winter of 2004, while
driving along the historic Stilwell road from Southwest China into India’s cloistered
northeast on a documentary project. Over the years I spent a large part of my
engagement with members of this community in Phaneng, a small village in upper
Assam. Due to various reasons, their numbers a mere 1500 today and is on the verge
My involvement in Phaneng has been with an education project, rebuilding a
monastery, and a unique eco-tourism project that has built local capacity as well as
raised incomes. My proximity to the Tai Phake community, their trust in me, the years
spent documenting various facets of their life, all this gradually led me towards this
large format portraiture project.
The structure of the exhibition serves as a metaphoric journey through the darkening
world of Phaneng’s tribal inhabitants who have lived without electricity, running
water and most modern amenities. Ironically, they also live in close proximity to
modern coal mining projects that are slowly swallowing their forests and way of life.
The exhibition’s soundscape has been created with recordings from Phaneng and
conveys another facet of their world. A people and a culture that may soon fade away
from existence and only appear as a distant memory.