The New Pre-Raphaelites, 2008
“I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them or touch anyone, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment, what is this then?
I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea.”
To take delight in the company of the same sex was illegal until 2018 when section 377, an archaic law insituted by the british that criminalises homosexuality, was repealed. Today on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, we go back 19 years ago when this movement was led by the Naz Foundation, in which photographer and activist Sunil Gupta was at the forefront photographing for 30 years, around issues of gender, sexuality, displacement, and lives affected by HIV/AIDS. Commissioned by Autograph ABP in 2008 in response to human rights issues concerning section 377, Sunil Gupta produced a series of 10 pictures titled ‘The New Pre-Raphaelites’.
In this series Sunil Gupta was inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites, who’s dogma depicted the natural world with attention to detail using bright and sharp focused techniques, introducing back the observations of the “truths of nature”. With the same intention in mind, Sunil Gupta composes romantic posture of gay couples, men and women, revealing affection, passion and desire placed within a space of criminal intent in the context of section 377, drawing attention to the juxtaposition of standardised structures within alternative social realities.
Sunil Gupta moved to New York in the late 1970s to pursue his studies in photography in New School for Social Research under the Lisette Model. He then moved to London to study at Royal College of Art. He has exhibited widely all over the world including Hales Gallery and Brixton Tate Library. The above series was featured in the Spectrosynthesis II – Exposure of Tolerance: LGBTQ Southeast Asia in November 2019. Learn more about Sunil’s art on his official website.
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