Friday, 1 May 2015

Ashok Sinha | The Last Jews of Calcutta

Photo © Ashok Sinha-All Rights Reserved
Some years ago I had an interest in documenting the very few Jews still living in Egypt at that time, after many thousands of them left the country in 1956 and in subsequent years. I researched its feasibility, and determined that there were so few of them left that the project would fail. I also expected that they, mostly elderly and poor, would be hardly inclined to be photographed and talk about their lives, fearing the Egyptian government would take umbrage. So I let the project go.

While on my 2011 photo expedition-workshop The Cult of Durga in Kolkata, my group and I dropped by the Magen David Synagogue to see if there was anything worthwhile to photograph. It was coincidentally Yom Kippur (which we didn't know), but the synagogue was almost empty. The Muslim guard, who stood watch at its gate, called one of the congregants, and she agreed to let us in and photograph. With an estimated 25 Jews remaining in this city of 14 million people, the synagogue is now rarely used.

Ashok has featured 28 photographs in a photo essay titled The Last Jews of Calcutta, which showcases the synagogue and the remnants of the congregation that remain. The Jews in Kolkata were Baghdadi (Iraqi) Jews who had emigrated from Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq to large commercial Indian cities, including Mumbai and Madras as well.

Ashok Sinha was born in Kolkata, and has been living and working in New York City for the past two decades. He's been a professional photographer since 2008, shooting portraits, travel, and architecture, and traveled  to over 40 countries, photographing remote tribes, vast landscapes, local culture, food, and faces. He was educated at Columbia, NYU, and the International Center of Photography, and garnered acknowledgments from American Society of Media Photographers, Lucie Foundation, Photo District News, Association of Photographers UK, World Photographic Arts, and the BBC.