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Gupta, Sunil (b. 1953)  
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Although his use of black and white film conformed to the expectations of documentary photography, he revealed the staged nature of his images through dramatic effects (strong contrasts of light and shade, diagonal compositions, etc.), which deliberately recalled film noir of the 1940s.

Included in the Black Experience series, the photograph Gay shows Gupta standing with his arm around his British partner. In the background, a movie theater marquee advertises Stephen Frears' My Beautiful Launderette (1985), a popular film written by Hanif Kureishi concerning the relationship of a Pakistani man with an Englishman. Looking directly outwards, Gupta and his partner seem to be inviting the viewer to participate in a world with blurred racial boundaries.

Although Gupta's earliest gay-themed work focused primarily on white subjects, he became increasingly concerned with broadening queer art to encompass non-white, especially South Asian, men. Therefore, in 1986, he utilized a commission from Photographer's Gallery to create Exiles, a series of photographs of the lives of gay men in New Delhi, his hometown. Gupta hoped that this project would help combat the invisibility of gay men in his native country and to promote queer cultural activity there.

Because homosexual acts were at the time punishable by up to ten years in prison, gay life in India had been concealed by "an intimidating wall of silence," as Gupta explained in Pictures from Here (2003). Gupta hoped that Exiles would help combat the invisibility of gay men in his native country and to promote queer cultural activity there.

The emergence of HIV/AIDS intensified the prevalent conception of homosexuality as a deadly Western disease. According to Gupta, until recently most gay men in India acquiesced to family pressures by marrying women and living in the closet. As Gupta did for much of his adult life, many Indian men committed to an openly gay lifestyle chose to live in Western societies, despite having to confront racism and other forms of oppression.

Recognizing the dangers to which gay men were subject in India, Gupta was determined not to violate the privacy of his subjects. Therefore, he recruited the help of "accomplices" to enact rituals of gay life in New Delhi. In Connaught Place, the glances and body poses of men seated in a park convey both furtiveness and solicitation. In Jama Masjid, Gupta skillfully exploits glances, gestures, and figural arrangements to suggest that the crowded street is a focal point of gay encounters. In other images (such as Jangpura and Hauz Khas), Gupta eloquently conveys the loneliness of men seen only from the backside. Textual panels incorporating statements by his accomplices in India enrich the meanings of the photographs.

By addressing simultaneously issues of race and sexuality, Exiles challenged limited notions of identity then prevalent in the international art world. Channel Four subsequently commissioned a short film, Indian Postcard (1988), which addressed the themes of Exiles through a musical narrative, involving men in different cities (Bombay, New Delhi), who do not actually meet.

Through his art and political activities, Gupta also confronted in the United Kingdom. For example, in "Pretended" Family Relationships (1988), a multimedia work incorporating both black and white and color photographs, large text panels, and audio commentary, Gupta explored the complexities of gay male and lesbian relationships, while also suggesting the necessity of political action. The passage of Clause 28 by the British Parliament, which restricted positive representations of same-sex relationships, caused Gupta to emphasize political themes more strongly than in his earlier pieces.

Each of the individual pieces in "Pretended" Family Relationships consist of three components: a large color photograph of a same-sex couple (on the left); a central text panel, with excerpts from poetry by his then-partner, Stephen Dodd; and a black and white photograph of protests against Clause 28.

In contrast to Ten Years On, Gupta did not care if the individuals shown as couples actually were life partners. Even in the heated political climate caused by the passage of Clause 28, Gupta chose not to idealize same-sex partnerships. For example, displayed next to a photo of an interracial couple on the Thames Embankment, the text--"I call you my love though you are not my love and it breaks my heart to tell you"--reveals the ambiguities and complexities of the relationship shown to us. While some pieces do suggest loving commitment, others deal with street cruising and unfulfilled longing.

Trespass Series

In an extended series of mural-size works, created in the early 1990s, Gupta explored the intersections or "trespasses" of multiple social and personal factors, including the collective histories of different cultures, economic agendas, political propaganda, race, sexuality, and health status, among other elements. Utilizing digital technology, Gupta combined his own photographs (both newly taken and pre-existing ones), archival images, and ads and other popular source material.

In 1992-93, Gupta undertook Trespass I for a commission for the Triumph of Empire exhibition (intended as a counterpoint to the quincentenary of the discovery of America). In response to the theme of empire, Gupta developed the concept of strangers in an alien land, focused specifically upon the circumstances of South Asian immigrants in the newly unified European empire. Considering Germany to be the heart of the New Europe, Gupta decided to undertake the project in Berlin.

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