Photographer, writer, curator and activist Sunil Gupta has explored issues of racism, sexuality, migration and inequality in his art. Here, LUX explores our favourite bodies of work by Gupta and the call to action that each series projects
Gupta’s series Delhi: Tales of a City is a play on the old and the new. Gupta has explored and photographed historical sites in Delhi, primarily constructed between the years 1638 and 1739. During these years, the city was rebuilt by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. He imposed his power and influence over the state to control cultural life and the urban economy.
Centuries later, Gupta saw these historical sites, such as the Red Fort and Humayun’s Tomb, and noticed the range of age, religion, caste and sexual orientation of the people visiting these historic sites.
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He realised that, in turn, people were unknowingly overthrowing the repressive heritage of these monuments and even more he could use them as a decorative backdrop to project their individuality.
Christopher Street is possibly Gupta’s most important body of work. The idea of this series first came to Gupta when he moved to New York City in 1976. The aim of these photographs was not only a way for Gupta to focus on his passion for the freedom of expression but also to shed light on the momentous event in the LGBTQ+ community, known as The Stonewall Riots. This was a series of spontaneous protests by members of the LGBTQ+ community against a police raid that occurred on 28th June 1969 at the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village.
These demonstrations led to a fundamental switch in the gay liberation movement which led to an increase of openness and unparalleled acceptance within and towards the gay community in New York. These photographs display a community that shaped Gupta as a person and concreted his personal ambition to portray people who have been denied a space to be themselves.
Arrival, is a body of work Gupta created in collaboration with his partner Charan Singh.
In this series Gupta and Singh use elements of Victorian portraits that were known to project Victorian conventions and norms of behavioural identities.
However, Gupta and Singh change the narrative by creating an anti-colonial legacy through compassionate, poetic gestures to convey their sitters’ range of emotions, who are always anticipating when the process of their arrival will become complete.
The project also serves as a reminder that homophobia is an anti-humanist cultural affliction, that negatively effects nations beyond the Commonwealth.
‘Sunil Gupta: Cruising’ is on show at Vadehra Art Gallery in New Delhi Until Friday 16th September 2022
Find out more: vadehra.com/exhibitions