Sudeep Lingamneni is an Indian-American-Australian contemporary interdisciplinary artist, arts producer, photography curator, artistic researcher and community arts worker whose diverse practice defies simple boundaries or explanations. Collaborator and polymath par-excellence, Sudeep has not only been an alumni of the Footscray Community Arts Centre Emerging Leaders Program, but is also a key component of PHOTODUST, a not-for-profit Asia-Pacific curation project that engages and encourages collaboration between artists, for the production and publication of photographic and lens-based art. Sudeep was nominated as an Asian to Watch Out For by one of our readers, particularly in relation to this incredible archive of digital image culture, and we were curious to get to know a little bit more about Sudeep and his work, which features here with two images of Bella Li, herself a fine poet (published in Peril as a part of the Poetry Map).
Firstly, a little background – how did you start as a photographer? Were there artists that inspired you in your practice?
I was fascinated by design and highly computer literate, as a Certificate IV, Graphic Design graduate, I worked part-time as a junior graphic designer in a printing press retouching photos. Appalled by their poor quality, I bought a camera and took my first photographs during the Iraq war protests on February 15th, 2003 in Melbourne, Australia. It was a coordinated day of protests across the world, with millions of people expressing opposition to the then-imminent Iraq War.
You cite that your diverse cultural heritage informs your work – in which area of your (very varied!) practice do you feel this is most strongly present?
I never planned or imagined I would become a photographer. It just happened. In 2004 my father died, just before my 27th birthday, so I decided to travel through India for a year and discover the country of my birth. Although I was born in Andhra Pradesh, I was raised in Boston, Massachusetts so I don’t speak Hindi or my mother tongue Telugu. I found myself walking for hours, photographing what I saw. The hours became days, which became months. When I wondered what I was doing, I realised I was seeking some sort of truth, in relation to myself. Photography was connecting me in the most intimate, emotional way with the landscape around me and the people that inhabited it.
Where does portraiture sit within your practice of creative cultural development? Tell us a little more about the process of photographing poet, Bella Li?
Over the years, I have photographed lots of individuals from all sorts of backgrounds in varying circumstances. As a portrait photographer, I see the sharing and receiving of photographs as something beautiful and personal, something that draws the viewer into the emotional life of the subject.
Bella is an amazing poet and model. It was my first fashion shoot and I enjoyed it very much. I remember it being cold and cloudy but I don’t remember the process much. Over the years, we have become very good friends.