Sunil Gupta: From Here to Eternity

From Here to Eternity marks the first major retrospective of UK based photographer, Sunil Gupta.
Spanning five decades, the exhibition will bring together all the key series from his pioneering photographic practice for the first time, as well as presenting never-before-exhibited works. Subversive, impulsive, personal, and political, Sunil Gupta’s socially engaged practice has focused on themes of identity, family, race, migration, and the complexities and taboos of sexuality.

A committed activist, his work has been instrumental in raising awareness around the political realities concerning the fight for international gay rights and making visible the tensions between traditional and contemporary societies, public and private, the body, and body politics. This retrospective is a timely reflection and overview of his politically engaged work that continues to tackle these ongoing issues.

Taking place over two floors of the gallery, this retrospective will bring together works from sixteen of his series from across his divergent and extensive career, from Christopher Street (1976), the first series of photographs Gupta made as a practicing artist, where he documented the burgeoning gay scene in Greenwich Village; to mural-sized narrative portraits such as From Here to Eternity (1999) produced following Gupta’s diagnosis as HIV positive in 1995, they explore his experiences of living with the virus, his fear of death and how his community reacted after being diagnosed.

(interview with Sunil Gupta)

Highly-staged and constructed scenes such as The New Pre-Raphaelites (2008) and a selection of early investigations into digital image-making (Trespass 1992-1995), combine Gupta’s own personal and lived experiences with broader socio-political issues, as well exploring ethical questions of documentation and representation. Exhibited for the first time in this exhibition, Memorials (1995) is a poignant series that commemorates the victims of homophobic hate crimes; while Reflections of the Black Experience (1986), illustrates aspects of black people’s experience in London, with the resulting exhibition of the work leading eventually to the formation of Autograph – the Association of Black Photographers, an organization devoted to contesting the discrimination of marginalized photographers in the UK. In the series Exiles (1986-1987), commissioned by The Photographers’ Gallery, Gupta returned to Delhi to visualize the hidden realities of gay men living in India before the decriminalization of homosexuality, which was punishable with up to ten years in prison until September 2018. Similarly, his series “Pretended” Family Relationships (1988) explored the UK’s notorious “Clause 28” law passed in 1988 by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, which restricted positive representations of same-sex relationships.

More recent series include The New Pre-Raphaelites (2008), which was created to support the legal battle against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a colonial-era law that allowed arrests and prison sentences of up to ten years for any homosexual act. Consisting of highly staged images of South Asian gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals posing against sumptuous, richly-colored backdrops wearing brilliant costumes, the series creatively reimagines the composition of paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. From his coming out while migrating with his family to Montreal, to participating in New York’s active Gay Liberation Movement in the 1970s and being an active campaigner in the early AIDS movement, to his more recent campaigning in India and around the world, Gupta has been inspirational to generations of activist photographers and LGBTQ+ rights advocates. The exhibition is curated by Dr. Mark Sealy MBE (Autograph ABP, London) in collaboration with The Photographers’ Gallery, London, and the Ryerson Image Centre (Toronto). The exhibition will premiere at The Photographers’ Gallery before traveling to the Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto in Autumn 2021.

A new publication will be published by the organizing partners to accompany the exhibition.

See the film about this project:

About the Author

(b. 1953, New Delhi, India)
Sunil Gupta is a photographer, artist, educator, and curator currently enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of Westminster. Educated at the Royal College of Art he has been involved with independent photography as a critical practice for many years focusing on race, migration, and queer issues. In the 1980s, Gupta constructed documentary images of gay men in architectural spaces in Delhi, his “Exiles” series. The images and texts describe the conditions for gay men in India at the times.

A portrait of Sunil Gupta

Gupta’s recent series “Mr. Malhotra’s Party” updates this theme during a time in which queer identities are more open and also reside in virtual space on the internet and in private parties. His early documentary series “Christopher Street, New York” was shot in the mid-1970s as Gupta studied under Lisette Model at the New School for Social Research and became interested in the idea of gay public space. Gupta’s published work includes the monographs: queer: Sunil Gupta (Prestel/Vadehra Art Gallery, 2011), Wish You Were Here: Memories of a Gay Life (Yoda Press, New Delhi, 2008), and Pictures From Here (Chris Boot Ltd., New York, 2003). He recently exhibited (with Charan Singh), “Dissent and Desire” (catalog) is at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston and his last book, Delhi: Communities of Belonging, was published by The New Press, New York 2016. His work has been seen in many important groups shows including “Paris, Bombay, Delhi…” at the Pompidou Centre, Paris 2011, and is currently at Tate, Britain. He is Visiting Professor at UCA, Farnham, and Visiting Tutor at the Royal College of Art, London. He was Lead Curator for, “Where Three Dreams Cross: 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh” at the Whitechapel Gallery London, England and Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (2011). He was Lead Curator for the Houston Fotofest 2018. His work is in many private and public collections including; George Eastman House (Rochester, USA), Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Royal Ontario Museum, Tate, Harvard University, and the Museum of Modern Art.

9 OCT 2020 – 24 JAN 2021
The Photographers’ Gallery, London, UK

* The Photographers’ Gallery is temporarily closed

Hardcover: 200 pages
Publisher: Autograph (November 1, 2020)
Language: English
Weight: 1.1 pounds
ISBN-13: 978-1899282999

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