Ace portrait photographer Sunil Gupta is snapping up the world of
'queer' people who live on the fringes of the capital. Acclaimed
worldwide for his candid pictorial documents of LGBT communities,
he says he has moved out of his "comfort zone".
"I have moved out of my comfort zone with my camera to get a full
picture of the capital's LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and
Transgender) communities in the fringe areas of east and west
Delhi - the kind of place where your domestic helps would live. I
am shooting a series of portraits of men and women who find
themselves queer among the various social networks," Gupta told IANS.
He refers to his new photographic series as the "portrait of
Delhi's working class".
Gupta says the plight of the LGBT communities in areas outlying
posh residential neighbourhoods of the metropolis is poignant.
"The men have nowhere to go and usually get married to lead a
double life. In their 20s, when they are single, they tend to be
effeminate and under extreme circumstances cross-dress (or even
wear their hair long).
"On entering middle-age, they cut their hair and say , 'baal katke
launda baan gaye'. By the time, their children are 20, the LGBT
men become 'uncle-ji (avuncular)' figures to their children - back
into their masculine mode," Gupta said.
Most of the same sex or queer relationships flourish outside home,
Gupta said. "They make different kinds of deals, be it outside or
at home. I am shooting them outdoors," he said.
He will put the pictures "together in a book which will be
published next year".
Gupta, who grew up as a "child trying hard to be flawless like
many other queer kids", says "photography gave him a definite
"If I can jump years forward to the present time (from my
childhood)...I have an extended non-English speaking family (in
Uttar Pradesh). They speak Hindi. I showed them pictures of me and
my partner to tell them that it was a relationship (not just
sex)," Gupta said.
In a new international monograph of his major series of
photographs since 1970, "Queer", published by Prestel and Vadehra
Art Gallery, curator Vidya Shivadas, an art critic, says "it is
through pictures that he sets up his narrative
of the last 40-odd years".
"Place and time change as he moves from Montreal, New York to
London and finally Delhi; artistic strategies shift between the
documentary, the performative and the staged. The subjective voice
of the artist extends into a more collective political assertion
around issues of gay identities and race politics," Shivadas says
of Gupta's work.
The 140-page publication with 80 colour illustrations has an essay
by Canadian curator Keith Wallace and a conversation between
historian Salim Kidwai, the author of "Same Sex Love and Libido in
India", and Gupta, a long time friend. The book unveils snatches
from Gupta's diverse photographic chronicles made of narrative
portraits to fictional photo-essays.