In 2009, when Sunil Gupta and Charan Singh met in Delhi at an HIV/AIDS gathering, “many things were newly possible at the time,” they write in the prologue to Delhi: Communities of Belonging, a book published last year by The New Press and now a show opening March 30 and on view until May 6 at SepiaEYE gallery in New York City. Then, for the first time in India, “You could publicly identify as gay and even as HIV-positive without being immediately charged under Section 377 [anti-sodomy laws dating back to the British Empire] or stigmatized and cast out of society.” Gupta, an artist, writer, activist and curator and Singh, a photographer, write that “As we became romantically involved, it became inevitable that our personal lives would overlap with our professional lives.” One collaboration has been this project, which documents 17 LGBTQ Delhi residents in photographs and interview, recording the diverse ways they negotiate life.
While anti-sodomy laws were reinstated in 2013, the movement for LGBTQ rights and visibility has steadily grown. As Gautam Bhan asks in the prologue to the book, “How does one capture the slow transition from silence to the first utterances about sexuality to this current saturation of speech?” The answer is in the photographs—picturing subjects in their homes and neighborhoods, with partners and children or at gatherings of activists, the images focus on moments of connection and show how lives are built around different kinds of intimacy.”What was silent and private has emerged into the public sphere,” Bhan writes. “Gupta’s and Singh’s work bears testimony to this.”