Immigrating from India in 1973, Vikesh Kapoor’s parents settled in a small town of 10,000 people in rural Pennsylvania. Having an overwhelmingly white population, they were one of only a few immigrant families in the region. While they left India for a better life, the shift from a collectivist nation to an individualistic one led to isolation just as much as it led to freedom. No longer living close by, their isolation has only become more apparent to the artist.
Vikesh Kapoor began his career as a folk singer and songwriter, using the medium as a form of storytelling. As a songwriter, he spent years touring across the country, and during these times away from family, reflected on the sacrifices his parents made in order to immigrate to the U.S. “I was touring around the country struggling and thinking about all of the sacrifices that they made coming from India” Kapoor says “They came from the state of Bihar, which is the poorest state in India. They worked very hard and sacrificed a lot to make a better life for themselves. Being a first generation American, I’m always thinking in the back of my head somewhere how do I make them proud, how do I continue this lineage?”
Kapoor initially began making photographs of his parents as a way of creating memories and spending time with them. It wasn’t until he began looking for new ways to tell a story that the photographs slowly began to collect themselves into a body of work. Echoing works such as Pictures from Home by Larry Sultan, Kapoor’s See You at Home explores these same concepts of home and the mythology of the American dream through a more unique and contemporary lens. Immigrating from India, the shift from a collectivist nation to an individualistic one provides a vastly different experience. “What I’m talking about is more of a contemporary portrait of American families, in which it’s not just family portraits we’ve seen of western families or white families but there are other people now, and there are other stories happening.” Kapoor says.
Bringing together vernacular family photographs and images taken today, See you at Home becomes a personal examination of diaspora, aging, and the South Asian experience. Photographs from the family photo album juxtaposed with Kapoor’s photographs resemble intertwining memories fading between the past and present. As an Artist in residence at the Center for Photography Woodstock in Spring of 2018, Kapoor combed through boxes of old family prints and slides and began to find past family photographs that resonated with photographs he had already made.
Words by Vikesh Kapoor for the National Portrait Gallery Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition in response to his photograph, “Our Childhood Swimming Pool”
“My father had just finished raking the leaves out when I made this portrait of him in the childhood swimming pool. He still tends to it even though it’s no longer used. Here it lives in a continuous state of decay.
This pool is where he taught me how to swim when I was one and a half years old. This is the pool where so many home videos were made: him chasing me around the pool with the hose, eating lunch with aunties that were visiting from India, and from times even before I was born.
This is the state of the pool now, and has been for years. I made this portrait after not seeing him for 8 months. I try to visit as often as I can.”
This would later be seen at Kapoor’s solo exhibition of See you at Home at the Print Center in Philadelphia PA. The exhibition included a photograph of Kapoor’s father standing in front of the drained family pool (Our Childhood Swimming Pool, 2016), surrounded by smaller archived photographs of the family enjoying and swimming during the pools use. The family photographs were printed on photographic vinyl and accompanied by home videos. Through the surrounding images and video, you start to see the similarities and connections in his own work that Kapoor is finding within the archives.
As an ongoing project, Kapoor is now beginning to experiment with mediums outside of photography, such as video, sculpture, ceramic, and text. This mix of materials is reminiscent of a family scrapbook, each form carrying memories of both the artist and his parents. See You at Home provides an intimate and contemporary glimpse into family, memory and the myth and melancholy surrounding the American Dream.
Vikesh Kapoor (born Sunset Pines, PA; lives Los Angeles, CA) is a multidisciplinary artist whose work examines race, class and identity as a first-generation American. Kapoor has exhibited his series See You at Home in solo exhibitions at The Print Center, Philadelphia PA; Filter Space, Chicago, IL; and New Orleans Photo Alliance Gallery, LA. He has received numerous awards, including The Joan Hohlt and Roger Wich Emerging Photographer Scholarship from the Houston Center for Photography, The Hopper Prize, LensCulture Art Photography Juror's Pick Award, PhotoNola Review Grand Prize and a Project Development Grant from CENTER, Santa Fe, NM. In 2021, he produced Modern Country Doctor, the Leica x 1854 Witnesses of: Devotion commission for the British Journal of Photography.
Barbara Tannenbaum is Chair, Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs and Curator of Photography at the Cleveland Museum of Art, has organized over 125 exhibitions during her three-decade career as a curator and academic.
David Oresick is Executive Director and Chief Curator of Silver Eye Center for Photography, in Pittsburgh, PA. Silver Eye promotes the power of contemporary photography as a fine art medium by creating original exhibitions, unique educational programing, and a space for artists to learn, create, and connect.
Irina Chmyreva, PhD. Historian of photography; is a leading researcher at the Institute ofTheory and History of Fine Arts, Russian Academy of Arts, Moscow and Art-director ofInternational Festival of Photography PhotoVisa, Russia.
Whitney Matewe is photo editor at TIME Magazine and was previously a photo editor at National Geographic, The New Yorker, The Intercept and Condé Nast brands like Teen Vogue and GQ. While she’s based in New York, she collaborates with photographers around the globe and strives to amplify the stories and perspectives of underrepresented voices.