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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Queer Sunil Gupta

Max Mueller Bhavan is Dilli's Goethe-Institut. I was here on the 2nd of May, 2011, to be at the launch of Queer Sunil Gupta, a book of photographs that has been put together by Vadehra Art Gallery (VAG) & Prestel.

Goethe Institut

The leaflet given at the exhibition says that "VAG's position as an artistic interlocutor with the public is especially vital in contemporary India because of the lack of vibrant art museum culture". Coming from Pakistan and looking at the exhibitions and books on photography and art  - as well as numerous photography and art magazines - it seemed so strange to hear this.

By the way, VAG has printed several books in its 25 years of history, ranging from monographs and picture books to an art directory.

Sunil Gupta

A regular writer on gay culture and its history, Sunil Gupta, the author of Queer Sunil Gupta, is a brilliant photographer and curator. Amazon calls him "Arguably India's best-known working photographer". He has spent several years living in Canada, UK, and USA and his photographs have appeared in group and solo exhibitions in USA, UK, and Australia.

For many years Gupta has looked at the narratives of gay life in India and other parts of the world. He has written about and tackled the issues of gender and sexuality. Importantly, he has written about his own experiences while living with AIDS.

Gupta's work is personal and political and has been instrumental in raising the awareness of homosexual living in the world.
"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 recently.
Pramada Menon

Gautam Bhan

Pramada Menon & Gautam Bhan opened the event with humourous conversations and the audience loved their work. They were followed by Sunil Gupta who also invited Saleem Kidwai to join him. Saleem used to teach medieval Indian history at Delhi University and is now researching homo-eroticism in Urdu Poetry.

Saleem Kidwai

The session ended, after several questions from the audience that Sunil and Saleem responded to, with Radhika Singh speaking about Gupta's work.

Radhika Singh

Queer Sunil Gupta is an excellent 140-page hardcover edition with 80 colour pictures. It includes Gupta's remarkable range of photographs, from fictional essays to narrative images. There are heart-rending images of children in an HIV centre, plus the wonderful portraits of men, women, and transgenders living in India while they struggle against homophobic culture and laws.
Sunil recounting his younger days

Sunil and Saleem have been long friends from their days in Canada. I found their lovely conversation in Queer Sunil Gupta remarkably interesting to read. Keith Wallace, Director/Curator of the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver, also has an essay in the book.

By the way, Saleem Kidwai co-authored, with Ruth Vanita, the brilliant Same Sex Love in India (Palgrave), a book that you must get to read.

Of course, you'll have to ask someone coming from overseas to get these books for you as they are unlikely to be seen in our bookshops.

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Blogger Maleeha said...

Just wanted to add a note about Saleem Kidwai's book 'Same Sex Love in India' - I found a copy at Readings (Lahore) Lahore several months ago. It was new so I assume there would be more copies. Brilliant book!

10 May, 2011 22:44

Blogger Maleeha said...

It's a Penguin version, by the way. Not that it makes much of a difference, but just thought I'd mention it.

10 May, 2011 22:45

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Maleeha ... I have seen it in a bookshop in Sadar, too. But they are rare. Getting it from India, UK or USA is easier if someone is coming. But people could ask Liberty who are often quite good in getting things.

10 May, 2011 23:00


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