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Gupta, Sunil (b. 1953)  
page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  

As one looks longer at the series, one realizes that, although it is not tied together by consistent treatment of subject, it is unified by the soft, gentle mood pervading all the images. Such formal elements as soft lighting, muted colors, and slightly "out-of-focus" presentation contribute to the lyrical romanticism that pervades the series.

In interviews, Gupta has explained that he intended the title word "undetectable" to have multiple connotations. Most obviously, this word acknowledges the medical status of individuals who achieve virtually "undetectable" viral loads through medical treatment. However, this term also references the difficulty that Gupta and many other HIV-positive individuals have in detecting love.

In a broader sense, Gupta also wants the title to highlight the reluctance of society to acknowledge the importance of love in all queer lives. Thus, he has expressed his concern that media discussion of the repeal of Section 377 encompassed sociology, law, and sex, but entirely ignored the emotional experiences of queer people. He has stated, "As people, our lives have a significant emotional aspect too, and the pictures brought that to the fore. So it's not only about sex between same-sex [couples]; the love between same-sex [couples] is never discussed."

The viewer's initial inability to perceive the theme replicates the difficult experience that Gupta has had in coming to terms with the reality and power of romantic love in his own life after his diagnosis with HIV. The recognition of the allure of romance that develops as one looks at the series enables the viewer to appreciate the importance of love in his or her own life.

Untitled no. 5 can be used to exemplify the impact of the series. In this photograph, we view from backside the reclining figure of a young man, as he gazes out at a tranquil grassy area, surrounded by houses. Because we see Gupta embracing the same man in another image, we can imagine he is someone with whom the artist is deeply involved. In the deceptively simple but deeply poetic No. 5, the viewer is privileged to assume the position of Gupta, as he gazes at this man with the eyes of love.


From the beginning of his career in the arts, Gupta repudiated the conventional representation of homosexuals as "perverted objects, fixated with the penis" and sought to depict gay men in relationship to their diverse life experiences. Although often autobiographical in origin, his pieces resonate with a wide range of viewers because they are structured in an open-ended fashion.

In the Trespass series, Homelands, and numerous other projects, he has explored the complex interactions of sexuality with many other personal and communal identity factors, including race, social class, geographic location, and health status. A desire to counter the dearth of images of minority gay men and also to promote queer culture in India motivated Gupta to create Exiles, a series which gave visibility to individuals who had too long seemed invisible.

Since his return to India in 2004, Gupta's art has evolved in new directions, and he has explored new themes. While most of his work prior to 2004 was focused primarily upon gay men, he has broadened his subject matter, and he has visualized the experiences of lesbians and transgender individuals in many projects. In A Time to Love and Imagining Childhood, he called attention to the lives of children living with HIV/AIDS, and he has begun a project on queer childhoods.

Gupta has retained his commitment to blurring cultural, racial, and sexual boundaries and to promoting political causes through subtle and poetic (rather than didactic) imagery. Thus, for example, he appropriated compositions devised by nineteenth-century British artists for the powerful and sensual images of South Asian queers in The New Pre-Raphaelites, which was intended to support the fight against Section 377.

In such works as Love and Light and Love Undetectable, Gupta celebrates romantic love with a lyrical tenderness not previously seen in his work.

An artist at the height of his powers, Gupta continues to evolve and to offer rich commentaries on a diverse range of queer experience.

Richard G. Mann

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arts >> Overview:  Canadian Art

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arts >> Overview:  Contemporary Art

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arts >> Overview:  Documentary Film

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social sciences >> Overview:  Hinduism

The dominant religion of modern India, Hinduism is no longer as tolerant of same-sex sexual relations as it seems to have been in the past.

social sciences >> Overview:  India

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arts >> Overview:  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Nude Males

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arts >> Boffin, Tessa

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social sciences >> Clause (or Section) 28

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literature >> Kureishi, Hanif

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arts >> Solomon, Simeon

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Benllocch, Pep, and Pedro Vicente. "Turn the Page: Present and Future of Photography Magazines." PhotoResearcher (European Society for the History of Photography) 12 (2009): 51-56.

Boffin, Tessa, and Sunil Gupta, eds. Ecstatic Antibodies: Resisting the AIDS Mythology. London: Rivers Oram, 1990.

Bright, Deborah. The Passionate Camera: Photography and Bodies of Desire. London: Routledge, 1998.

Buckley, Bernadette. "Artist Interview: Sunil Gupta." John Hansard Gallery, University of Southampton (April 2003):

Carver, Antonia. "Getting Them Between the Eyes: An Interview with Sunil Gupta." Art AsiaPacific 16 (1997): 64-69.

Clark, Robert. "Sunil Gupta." Guardian Unlimited (London) (February 3, 2004):,,1137441,00.html

Cotter, Holland. "Sunil Gupta: From Here to Eternity." New York Times (January 7, 2000): E, part 2, 43.

Cooper, Emmanuel. The Sexual Perspective: Homosexuality and Art in the Last 100 Years in the West. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 1994.

Dhote, Anyana. "Sunil Gupta's Photography." Pink Pages: India's National Gay and Lesbian Magazine. No. 3 (February 2010): 54-58.

"Exploring Post-Modern Identity." The Hindu (April 27, 2004): 1.

Forest, Black. "The New Pre-Raphaelites (Grovesnor's Gallery)." TheMostCake (London, January 18, 2010):…-the-new-pre-raphaelites-grosvenor-gallery/#more-5442

Gross, J. "Sunil Gupta's 'Tilonia' at the Commonwealth Institute, London." British Journal of Photography 130 (June 10, 1983): 601-02.

Gupta, Sunil. Disrupted Borders: An Intervention in Definitions of Borders. London: Rivers Oram, 1993.

_____. An Economy of Signs: Contemporary Indian Photography. London: Rivers Oram, 1990.

_____. "India Postcard, or Why I Make Work in a Racist, Homophobic Society." Queer Looks: Perspectives on Lesbian and Gay Film and Video. Martha Gever, John Greyson, and Prathiba Parmar, eds. London: Routledge, 1993. 240-47.

_____. "Lovers Ten Years On/Portraits of Gay Men." Creative Camera 253 (January 1986): 12-13.

_____. Monograph. London: Autograph, 1998.

_____. Pictures from Here. London: Autograph, 2003.

_____. "Sunil Gupta." (2006):

_____. Trespass 1. Vancouver, B.C.: Contemporary Art Gallery, 1993.

_____. Wish You Were Here: Memories of a Gay Life. Delhi: Yoda Press, 2008.

Hall, Stuart, and Mark Sealy. Different: A Historical Context. London: Phaidon, 2001.

Kaindl, Kurt. "At the Crossroads." Creative Camera 313 (December 1991/January 1992): 18-23.

Keen, Melanie. "Sunil Gupta." Creative Camera 339 (April/May 1996): 39.

Papastergiadis, Nikos. "Imagining a New Internationalism." Creative Camera 327 (April/May 1994): 18-23.

Singh, Radhika. "Sunil Gupta: Interview." Exposure 41: 1 (Spring 2008): 14-25.

Still, Judith. "What Is a Man? Looking at the Traces of Men's Sexuality, Race and Class in the Work of Some Contemporary Photographers." Paragraph 26.1-2 (March-July 2003): 119-133.

"Sunil Gupta." Meet the Artists. National Gallery of Canada. (January 13, 2006):


    Citation Information
    Author: Mann, Richard G.  
    Entry Title: Gupta, Sunil  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2007  
    Date Last Updated September 18, 2011  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
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    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2007 glbtq, Inc.  


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