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A photographer chronicles Delhi's 'queer' poor

Thursday May 05, 2011 08:10:17 PM, IANS

New Delhi: 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 subject".

"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.








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