Thursday, June 01, 2017

Be yourself - if you dare

Another day, another trip to the city centre presenting an opportunity to soak up more of the delights of the Diffusion photography festival. Last time, I stumbled across exhibitions by Edward Barber and Sebastian Bruno at the 'Stute; this time, I actively made a bee-line for the Angel.

Sadly, time restrictions prevented me from enjoying any of the three short films hand-picked from the archives of the Iris Prize, but the pictures in Sunil Gupta and Charan Singh's Delhi: Communities Of Belonging generated a positive image of being gay in India. Individually, the photos were perhaps unremarkable, showing domestic scenes of contentment, warmth and intimacy - but it was knowing the context of legal persecution and bigotry in the wider culture that gave them their subtle power.

Tatiana Vinogradova's Days Of Melancholy dealt with similar subject matter but painted a far more bleak picture. Her subjects - young gay men growing up in Putin's Russia - were shot in shadows or glanced by shafts of light in their bedrooms, caught in silent contemplation with hunted/haunted looks on their faces, facing both daily existence and the future with anxiety. The compositions had a stark yet elegant beauty that resonated long after leaving the temporary gallery.

The Angel also hosted Kathmandu Girl by Catrine Val, an exhibition showing an assortment of young Nepali women dressed up in vibrant, brightly coloured finery, literally outshining their dull, dirty, prosaic environment in the background. As a metaphor for self-expression and defiant self-determination (and a refusal to conform to narrow cultural expectations), the conceit worked well.

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