Bharat Choudhary is a freelance documentary photographer from India. For the first 14 years of his life, he lived in Nigeria before moving back to India with his parents. After receiving a degree in forestry management, he spent five years working with NGOs on issues of rural poverty and education. Choudhary’s life changed when his father gave him two cameras as a gift: an old Asahi Pentax K2 and a Minolta X-700.
His photography was shaped and developed through the mentorship of Magnum Photos photographer Raghu Rai in New Delhi. Choudhary was soon awarded the Ford Foundation International Fellowship to study at the University of Missouri in the United States, where he worked for the Columbia Missourian newspaper and received an MA in photojournalism in 2010. Upon completing his studies, Choudhary moved to England.
Choudhary won first place in the College Photographer of the Year competition’s International Picture Story category in 2009, and his work has been recognized by Pictures of the Year International, the Photocrati Fund, the Royal Photographic Society’s Joan Wakelin Bursary, and the Ian Parry Scholarship.
Currently based in London, Choudhary is documenting young Muslims through the lens of identity, religion, and conflict. His project is supported by a 2011 grant from the Alexia Foundation.
The Silence of “Others” aims to convey the emotional struggles of young American and British Muslims as they contend with stereotyping and religious discrimination in the era following the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, and the July 7, 2005, bombings in London. Amidst the hatred and violence perpetrated by a few in the name of Islam, many Muslims in the United States and Western Europe find themselves the subject of hostile social and political debates and scrutiny in which collective blame is heaped on these communities due to the actions of an extremist minority.
I began researching and photographing this project in the American Midwest and then moved on to the United Kingdom. I have met young Muslims who have experienced physical or verbal assaults and many more who are grappling with questions of identity in the context of religious intolerance. Through lengthy interviews, I have sought to better understand their perceptions and experiences. I have spent time with Muslim families in their homes and on the streets in an effort to bring forth a nuanced understanding of the experience of young people from various Muslim backgrounds living in different communities in the United States and the United Kingdom. By presenting a range of activities, behavior, emotions, personal spaces, and external interactions of young Muslims, I want my images to cut through the clutter of stereotypes, highlight the subjective experiences of Muslim youth, and provide insights into their motivations and actions.
Whenever I think about what led me to produce The Silence of “Others,” I cannot help but think of the changes that have occurred since the September 11 attacks in the United States and the violence I came across in 2002, within a year of September 11. The Indian state of Gujarat was rocked by the country’s worst Hindu and Muslim riots, resulting in the deaths of over 1,000 people. As a member of an inter-religious harmony project team, I worked with many Muslim families who had been affected by the riots.
Working intensively with a community is never easy. The search for project participants never ends, and it’s very natural to feel lost halfway through the journey and look for new directions. The only effective antidote is an even more intensive involvement with the community.
My work on this project is an ongoing education. It is an ever-evolving process. But through these images, I aim to share several interesting and relevant components that comprise a small part of a larger narrative. The Silence of “Others” is not about taking sides. It is about understanding people, their minds, their hearts, and the impact of prejudice, in all its forms, on individuals and communities.
—Bharat Choudhary, November 2011
At Home in Europe Project
The At Home in Europe project conducts research and advocacy activities that examine the situation of minorities in a changing Europe. Through its research and engagement with policymakers and communities, the project explores issues involving the political, social, and economic participation of Muslims and other marginalized groups at the local, national, and European levels. Currently, the project is producing an ongoing series of reports that examine the level and nature of integration of Muslims in 11 cities across Europe. Advocacy efforts based on the reports’ findings aim to influence public policies on integration of Muslims and other minorities, and change attitudes and behavior by challenging assumptions and stereotypes.
U.S. Programs Equality Fund
The U.S. Programs Equality Fund seeks to ensure justice and equality, prohibit arbitrary and discriminatory government action, and lift barriers that prevent people from participating fully in economic, social, and political life. The fund supports initiatives that illustrate the shared interest that people of color, immigrants, women, and LGBTQ people have in promoting equality and opportunity.
U.S. Programs National Security and Human Rights Campaign
The U.S. Programs National Security and Human Rights Campaign is working to promote progressive national security policies that respect human rights and the rule of law. The campaign’s priorities include countering anti-Muslim bigotry and ending racial, ethnic, and religious profiling of Muslim, Arab, South Asian, and Middle Eastern individuals and communities. The campaign is working to build the capacity of organizations from these communities to fight for civil rights and civil liberties and to promote the acceptance of these communities in American society.