Sunil Gupta talks about Mr. Malhotra’s Party at Tate Modern

I haven’t done much with my perhaps overly ambitious project to examine contemporary Indian art photography. Last year on a short trip to the time-warp Iowa, I collected some notes on the many photographs I found on the web. And I did manage to make it to Harvard last month to attend a lecture with Sabeena Gadihoke and Homai Vyarawalla. Not exactly contemporary photography, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Unfortunately, I missed the earlier lecture with Ram Rahman and Sunil Gupta. They’re both very provocative and accomplished photographers still doing work. The few photographs from Rahman that I’ve seen concern cinema imagery and the influence of film on Indian visual culture. (Hint: It’s huge.) On a related note, I rather like Pushpamala N, and her quasi-cinematic work.

Sunil Gupta really intrigues me. Sotheby’s describes him as “an artist, curator, writer, and cultural activist [who] has made a significant contribution to contemporary art practice and discourse around the globe. Through his work he challenges stereotypes and questions beliefs, by exploring issues of race, gender, and sexuality, and related issues of access, place, and identity.” Like a number of other Indian photographers, such as Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, his work examines (in part) what it’s like to be an Indian in diaspora.

So I was quite happy to see a TateShots video show up in my iTunes podcast playlist earlier this week:

Click for larger

In the short video, Gupta discusses the context for a couple of images currently on display in the Tate Modern’s Street and Studio exhibit.

They were taken in 2007 and they are part of an ongoing series called Mr Malhotra’s Party and the name of the series comes from what gay nights in Delhi are referred to, which are held in commercial bars and clubs, but because it’s illegal there, they are deemed as private parties.

Part of the underlying motivation is to show to people, especially in Delhi itself, that gay people are very ordinary looking, and part of just the social scene, part of the family structures that people live in. . . .

But what I like about India is that the street is like a theatre. So as you can see, tons of stuff happens around. So although the main subject and I are fixed and static, there is all this business, like it’s changing every second, what’s happening around the person. It’s like, it’s very lively. So I’m quite drawn to something that’s quite solid-looking, you know, compositionally.

Check it out.

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