Gay photographer captures life in new bookNovember 1st, 2008 - 1:15 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Nov 1(IANS) Photographer Sunil Gupta has a different focus on his camera lens. It pans the life and times of his generation - the happening 70s when alternative sexuality was coming out of the closet and young itinerants were journeying the globe in search of love.The HIV positive photographer of international repute, who operates from both New Delhi and London, has captured his sexual preferences, life, aesthetics, art and politics in his new book. “Wish You Were Here: Memories of a Gay Life”, an anthology of coloured photographs, was released here Friday.
The volume chronicles Gupta’s odyssey as a gay teenager coming out of the closet in Montreal in the 70s, his early years as a globetrotter and his life in Delhi in the company of younger friends in different support networks.
He has 25 solo shows, mostly international, to his credit.
The volume of coloured photographs, that goes far beyond the coffee table compendium on alternative sexuality and titillating images, is a fiercely contemporary work that defines the new directions in Indian visual art and ongoing debates about “difference and sexuality”.
“The book came about when gay rights activist Gautam Bhan suggested that I should do another book on sexuality. My last book, ‘Pictures From Here’, was published in 2003,” Gupta told a packed reading room at the Vadehra Bookstore here.
“Initially, I had planned to update it and put in all that happened between 2003 to 2008. We had started with that exercise, but suddenly everything changed. My mother died last year and I was in a hospital in London, recovering from a bout of illness.
“People did not tell me about it. When I came to know about my mother’s death, I hastily put together a 30-minute video with all the family pictures I had in London and that is how it all began.”
The book, published by Yoda Publishers, is priced at Rs.995.
For the next one year, it was a collective effort for Gupta and his friends to get the pictures of all the places and people around him - that he had shot over the years - in order.
“We opened up family albums and tracked down old photographs. I don’t subscribe to the theory that it was all in the air, but suddenly everything - all my early and later years as a migrant, gay, HIV positive, with partners and without partners - began to make sense. We were all evoking the years together and my editor did not impose any restrictions on me,” Gupta said.
The photographer, who was born here and has grown up watching Bollywood movies, moved to Montreal with his family in the late 1960s where his interest in photography began to develop.
In the mid 1970s, he moved to the US to study at the New School of Social Research under Lisette Model and then to London to study at the Royal College of Arts.
He set up the Organisation for Visual Arts and was involved in founding the Autograph Association for Black Photographers.
Nearer home, Gupta is known for his Sunday gay meetings, “At Home in Barista”, a weekly chat session at the café Barista in Alaknanda in south Delhi, where the photographer lives.
Some of the images are stunning in their poignancy. Two facing album shots of Gupta’s parents - Ram and Penny holding each other in Montreal and of the photographer as a frail, feminine teenager coming to terms with his homosexuality with a cigarette in the shadow of an alley in the 1970s - are telling comments on Gupta’s early years, jolted by pangs of estrangement.
“For better or for worse, the trajectory of my life changed at 15 when I was put on a plane to Canada by one parent in Delhi to be met by another with a stopover. Aside from a brief hiatus in Montreal, finding my feet and establishing a workable identity, I was suddenly on the road,” he writes in his book.
Gupta has strong feelings about Article 377 that hold gay sex illegal and a punishable offence.
“It has to be scrapped. India cannot hold anything back. But I think homosexuality is much more visible in India,” he told IANS.
Gupta, who will host a solo show of his works at Vadehra in September 2009, is already working on a new book.
“It is about love and much of it is based in Delhi.”