Sanjay Suchak (@sanjaysuchak) is an Indian American editorial, higher education, and music photographer.
Born & raised in Buffalo, NY, Sanjay pursued photography in high school as a hobby. He later started his professional career after college, assisting a photographer in Toronto traveling across the US on various shoots in higher education.
After a stint in politics in Washington, DC, Sanjay moved to Charlottesville, VA in 2012 accepting UVA’s Senior photography position.
It felt like a natural fit to go alongside his love for photographing live music.
Son to a white mother and Indian father, Sanjay’s family has an interesting story. His dad grew up in Zanzibar and escaped in 1969 during the revolution to relocate to the US with just 5 pence in his pocket. He settled in Buffalo, following his brother who had gotten a college scholarship. While working his own way through college as an orderly in a hospital, he met his future wife who was a nurse there. Sanjay’s grandmother came over to the States in the 70’s and every Friday the family would have her native Indian cuisine.
Sanjay always wanted to learn her cooking techniques but she wouldn’t teach him, as she believed only women should cook. After she passed away he was lucky to procure all of her recipes.
Sanjay says that growing up in Buffalo wasn’t too bad in terms of discrimination toward being brown. At the Quaker school he attended there were only a handful of non-white students out of about 1200 in the entire student body. It was more like “we can’t treat you that differently, so we’ll just make fun of your name (nothing worse).” Looking back, he now realizes all the microaggressions that were there living in a white-washed setting. But now 25yrs after he left, it’s had quite a resurgence with more refugees settling there and a lot of great cultural mixing. “I think people my age who left and came back are remaking it in the image of a better world, and I’m happy about that”
Sanjay loves the small town connections that can happen in Charlottesville, his home for the last 10 years. He says that when people ask “What do you do?” most people don’t necessarily state their job, but rather their passion. “The connections actually happen here, people seem to help one another out.”
Supporting a community that’s not just the trust fund graduates. This town has changed even in the decade that I’ve been here. And I missed the cool period… if you had an idea you could just open a restaurant.”
“I don’t identify really strictly as Indian, although I am, and I do. I don’t identify really strictly as white, although I am, and sometimes I feel as if I am that… I’m kind of both. When you don’t fit into either category necessarily particularly well, if you’re not surrounded by a community that looks like you, you sort of have to continue to be super outgoing and try real hard to expand your circle and make friends. That’s what I’ve sort of done. That’s why Charlottesville is so great, because my whole life prepared me to meet all these cool weird people. That’s why I like it here. You’re not at home in either of them so you got to try to weasel your way into every community and find a home. I hadn’t found one until here. I just don’t want this place to lose its magic, I want people to be able to afford to live here. Even if you don’t choose to be something that pays a lot of money, if you choose to be a musician… I always want Koda (Kerl) to be able to live here as a songwriting man. I want that slice of life to be preserved.