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Gupta, Sunil (b. 1953)  
 
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In collaboration with Shankar, Gupta began a photographic series entitled Love and Light in Ladakh, the mountainous northernmost region of India. This series of large diptychs juxtaposes softly focused and gently lit images of nude figures with strongly colored, brightly lit, and sharply focused views.

Light and Love No. 1 well exemplifies the mood of the series. In the photograph on the left side of this panel, the seated nude figures of Gupta and Shankar are shown in profile. Gazing lovingly at one another, they embrace and intertwine their bodies. The soft focus, muted colors, and radiant lighting of this image eloquently underline the affection evident in their poses and expressions. In the photograph on the right, the clothed figure of the artist is seen from the backside, as he looks at an austere but awe-inspiring mountain landscape. Through his combination of distinct formal and thematic elements, Gupta creates a work that seems at once tender and sublime.

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Although his relationship with Shankar ended in 2005, Gupta decided to remain in India indefinitely. He continues to live in New Delhi, making occasional trips to the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

New Directons

Gupta's work has evolved in interesting new directions since his return to India. Evolving out of his long-term interest in the history of Delhi, Gupta photographed older parts of the city (that is, Old Delhi) for the series, Tales of the City (2004), a title which may allude to Armistead Maupin's series of novels about San Francisco. Some of the images, such as Diwan-i Khas lyrically convey the beauty of ancient monuments, while others record bustling commercial areas.

In its intentions and scope Tales is inherently very different from Exiles. Nevertheless, at least one photograph of the new series--The Lanes of Shaahjanabad--seems to evoke possibilities of furtive cruising, as do so many of the images in the Exiles series.

Gupta also has completed two series interpreting the lives of children resident at the NAZ Care Home in New Delhi for women and children living with HIV and AIDS: A Time to Love (2004) and Imagining Childhood: Living with HIV in New Delhi (2006).

He conceives these as part of a larger project, and he intends to continue to photograph these children over the course of several years. Concerned with protecting the privacy of the children, he avoids revealing their identities in the photographs, often presenting back and partial views of them. He also has made extensive images of their environment.

To counter not only the invisibility of gay life in India but also the lack of attention to gay children in virtually all cultures, Gupta has also begun another project, which will interpret the circumstances of growing up gay in India.

Political and Cultural Activism

In the first couple of years after his return to India, Gupta felt discouraged by the state of queer life there, which, he felt, remained as hidden as it had been in the mid-1980s, when he created Exiles. Drawing upon the expertise that he gained through his extensive work with Autograph and other progressive organizations in the United Kingdom, Gupta quickly became actively involved in queer political organizations, most notably Nigah, a collective that seeks to create safe spaces for queers in Delhi and that organizes diverse educational and cultural activities, including the annual Nigah Queerfest.

At Queerfest and other venues, Gupta has conducted photo workshops, intended to empower queer individuals through art expression.

In 2007, Gupta and Gauri Gill founded Camerawork Delhi, a free photographic journal, which is intended to combat the secondary status of photography in the Indian art world and to bridge the gap between older craft traditions and digital technologies.

Under Gupta's leadership, Camerawork Delhi has fostered politically progressive film and photography not only through articles, but also through workshops and exhibitions. Reflecting Gupta's commitment to queer political issues, Camerawork Delhi often has focused on questions of gender and sex.

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