Cruising through the world of the queer community

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By Rajesh Kumar

Black and white photographs dating back to the 1980s, colour photographs shot in front of historical sites of Delhi, and portraits showcasing behavioural identities of queers from different regions — these comprise the collection that adorns the walls of the Vadehra Art Gallery for the ongoing solo exhibition of Sunil Gupta. The exhibition is succinctly named, ‘Sunil Gupta: Cruising’.

“Making photographs remains a great pleasure in my life and has been a means to rebut the prejudicial views of society around sexuality, race and gender,” says Gupta. He welcomes the viewers to the exhibition with a black and white photograph of his residence in Nizamuddin, Delhi. As one goes forward, they can witness the photographs of the lanes that Sunil had spent his childhood in. This nostalgic series of lived spaces is titled, ‘Cruising 1960s Delhi’ and was shot in the 1980s.

With the photographer himself being a gay, most of his work revolves around the queers community. Sunil has displayed photographs taken at various important spots in Delhi showcasing the absence of gay men in public spaces. Through these images, he questions the identity and experiences of gay men in India. Most of these photos are set against the backdrop of historical monuments of Delhi, and do not reveal the identity of the subject. The monuments include Qutb Minar, India Gate and Humayun’s Tomb.

Made in collaboration with his husband and fellow queer photographer Charan Singh, ‘Arrival’ is Sunil’s latest body of work that showcases the portraits of people of the queer community from various regions. Each portrait is aided by brief descriptive text on the wall underneath revealing the name of the subject and the country they come from. Every person in these portraits is dressed up in a way that represents their culture and tradition.

Sunil Gupta is an Indian-born Canadian photographer, who has been documenting and commenting on the queer experience, including across class and among ethnic minorities and. His published work includes the monographs: Queer: Sunil Gupta; Wish You Were Here: Memories of a Gay Life; and Pictures From Here. His work sits in many private and public collections, including the Museum of London; George Eastman House; Tokyo Metropolitan Museum.

Gallery View | Abir Pothi

‘Sunil Gupta: Cruising’ is on view at Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi till 16th September, 2022. 

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