An old man standing in front of a pink wall with framed photographs on the walls

Sunil Gupta standing amongst his works from Arrival series, 2022

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.

A palace with a palm trees and grass in front of it

Sunil Gupta, Delhi: Tales of a City: Humayun’s Tomb, 2003/2022

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.

A man and woman sitting on a bench looking at a palace

Sunil Gupta, Delhi: Tales of a City. Red Fort – 3, 2003/2022

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.

a black and white photo of a man and women walking in the street in New York

Sunil Gupta, Untitled #42, Christopher Street Series 1976/2022

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.

Two men walking onto a pavement

Sunil Gupta, Untitled #43, Christopher Street Series 1976/2022

Arrival, is a body of work Gupta created in collaboration with his partner Charan Singh.

Read more:Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation: Layers of Meaning

In this series Gupta and Singh use elements of Victorian portraits that were known to project Victorian conventions and norms of behavioural identities.

A woman in a neon yellow dress standing in front of a red tapestry with pink and blue flowers on it

Sunil Gupta and Charan Singh, Arrival series, 2022

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.

A man in tights and a dress standing in front of a purple wall

Sunil Gupta and Charan Singh, Arrival series, 2022

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

This article was published in association with the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation