Fotomuseum Winterthur | Monday, 01.09.2025 – Saturday, 31.01.2026

Poulomi Basu

In her works, Indian artist Poulomi Basu (b. 1983) interweaves documentary photographs and staged scenes in front of fantastic backdrops. Imagination blurs with reality and our perception of it. The resilience of the protagonists in her works runs like a common thread through her images: Basu enables them to take on the role of empowered actors and to speak out, telling their personal stories and thus challenging audience perceptions.

The artist’s expanded photographic practice draws attention to exclusion, abuse and gender-based violence. The artist uses photography and film as well as the media’s activist potential to champion the rights of marginalised groups. The stories of women who, like her, come from the Global South and find themselves pushed to the margins of society are of particular interest to the artist. Her works call for resistance to patriarchal structures, prevailing hierarchies and the systematic oppression of women and girls. 

Fotomuseum Winterthur is mounting the first major solo museum exhibition with the artist, showing a selection of her pieces. Basu’s multimedia works, many of them devised on a large scale and developed over lengthy periods of time, make use of a wide range of (visual) media – including photography, virtual reality and film – as well as installations and performance. Her visual language is characterised by an eclectic mix of post-documentary photography and fantasy-based science-fiction elements.

Basu’s works Blood Speaks – A Ritual of Exile, The Moon Palace and Maya – The Birth of a Superhero confront body politics, shame and the taboos associated with the awakening of female sexuality. One of the issues Basu discusses in her work is the practice of Chhaupadi, which is observed in some parts of Nepal and India, although it has been officially outlawed since 2005. During their menstruation women and girls are treated as untouchables and banished to rudimentary shelters or isolated spaces, which typically have no washing facilities or menstrual products. Carried on under the pretext of tradition, this practice poses significant health risks and emotional and psychological problems for the women and girls and in many cases gives rise to rape, abduction and even death. Basu’s investigation, which uses photographs, films, virtual reality and comic strips, shines a light on the consequences of this gender-based form of violence, while also giving a voice to those affected by the practice, granting them agency.

Basu’s project Centralia flags up a long-standing conflict between Indigenous communities and the Indian state that receives little public attention. Because of the mineral resources that lie in the territory of the Adivasi Indigenous communities in India, the region is repeatedly attacked by the country’s central government. The communist People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) resists these attempts at expropriation and fights for the land of some 104 million Adivasi, who have a strong, tradition-based sense of obligation to nature and to their own land. The docu-fiction Centralia blurs the line between reality and imagination: Basu weaves together documentary and found material, facial composites of PLGA fighters and anonymised portraits with staged scenes, clouding the distinction between our ideas of this armed conflict and the reality of it on the ground.

In her work Fireflies, Basu focuses on her and her mother’s personal experiences. Using photography, video and sound, the artist reflects on the traumatic patriarchal violence they have both been exposed to at home. Basu juxtaposes images of the marks left by this violence with photographs of her body in desolate landscapes and fantastic sceneries that evoke a sense of freedom, autonomy and care. According to Basu, Fireflies recounts her personal story of resistance. The work is a form of solidarity with the women who have opened themselves up to her and her work.

About the artist

Born in Kolkata, IN, in 1983, Poulomi Basu is a neurodiverse artist who now lives and works in London, UK. She studied sociology and cinema before completing her master’s in photojournalism and documentary photography at the London College of Communication.

She received an ICP Infinity Award in the Contemporary Photography and New Media category in 2023, won the Rencontres d’Arles jury award Prix Découverte Fondation Louis Roederer in 2020, was selected for the Sundance New Frontier Story Lab Fellowship in 2017 and became a Magnum Foundation Photography and Social Justice Fellow in 2012. In 2023 Basu was awarded the New Voices Special Mention at Tribeca Film Festival and nominated for the BFI and Chanel Filmmakers Awards. She was invited to the Venice International Film Festival in 2021 and to the South by Southwest film festival in 2019. Her work was shown at the Barbican and the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2023, the UN Headquarters in New York in 2023 and 2018, Paris Photo in 2022 and at the Photographers’ Gallery as part of her nomination for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize in 2021. 

Basu’s work forms part of public collections at various venues, including the Victoria and Albert Museum (UK), Harvard Art Museums (USA), Autograph (UK), the Museum of Modern Art (USA), the Martin Parr Foundation (UK), the Rencontres d’Arles (FR) and the Olympic Museum (CH).