The Viewing Room


A collaborative project featuring
In Private, Bombay by Olivia Arthur
The Marlborough Theatre by Bharat Sikka

Bringing together photographers Olivia Arthur (UK) and Bharat Sikka (India) this exhibition is an exploration of private and public representation of self-image in relation to the body, gender, sexuality and fantasy. Premiered last year at the Brighton Photo Biennial, and now on view in India for the first time with additional photographs.

Working with communities in both Mumbai (Olivia) and Brighton (Bharat), the photographers have collaborated with their participants to produce a new documentary project. Both series portray many individuals who identify themselves as part of the LGBTQ+ community, and is also an attempt to cross the boundaries between definitions of gender and sexuality. People of all orientations have been included.

While Brighton is known as the LGBTQ+ capital of the UK, sexuality remains a taboo in Mumbai. Homosexuality was in effect recriminalised in 2013, following the reinstatement of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, originally implemented under colonial rule. Spanning these two cities with starkly contrasting politics regarding gender and sexuality, the private and public settings for these photographs allude to the lack of visibility of communities continuing to struggle against discrimination.

The resulting work is a constellation of personal histories, chronicling and celebrating the multiple voices of groups with diverse responses to the themes explored.

Both photographers have used large format film. Working in black and white, Olivia has created images exploring people’s sense of self within their sexual identity as well as exploring the idea of privacy and where it can be found in often very public places. Working in colour, Bharat has offset reality and added elements of fiction to his private and public scenes.

By glimpsing into different lives, these intimate portraits reflect on photography’s role in defining, challenging and shaping our understanding of important issues.

Olivia Arthur (b. 1980) is a London-based photographer and member of Magnum Photos. Working for many years on the East-West cultural divide, her work has been included in institutional collections worldwide and exhibited internationally.

Bharat Sikka (b. 1973) grew up in India and now lives and works between Europe and India. He studied at the Parsons School of Design, New York. Documenting contemporary visions of India, Bharat has exhibited widely and has contributed to publications such as The New York Times, W, The New Yorker, i-D, Vogue, Vogue Homme International, Details and Time Magazine.

The artists and co-commissioners would like to thank Allsorts Youth Project, ELLE India, Andrea Fernandes, Gaysi, Jimmy Granger, GScene, Humsafar Trust, Sushant Kadam, The Marlborough Pub & Theatre, Lindsey Smith, Aishwarya Subramanian and Maya van Wingerden for their help with the project. Thanks also to each of the participants who have taken part in both countries.

Research and development supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England’s Re:Imagine India programme and the University of Brighton.
Additional support provided from the Artist International Development Fund, UK.

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