Short Reviews

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queercoverfrontQueer
by Sunil Gupta
Prestal. 144 pages, $49.95

 

For a community that should be celebrating diversity, gay men often produce erotic images that are predictable, repetitive, and bland. Indian-born, Canadian-bred photographer Sunil Gupta goes a long way toward shaking up the status quo with his impressive body of work, captured in this new collection titled simply Queer. Gupta captures images of gay Indian men, an identity so rarely explored that many of the photos seem revelatory by their sheer existence. There are men in bathhouses, men on the street, and naked self-portraits. As Keith Wallace writes in an essay that’s included in Queer, a formal tension emerges in Gupta’s work due to his competing identities: “He not only had to tackle his gayness in the Indian world but also his Indianness in the gay world.” You can also see a biographical shift for Gupta after he tested positive for HIV in 1995. Understandably, his work took on a more urgent tone and, in many cases, a far more explicit nature. One striking image is as simple as it is wrenching: a man sitting in a clinic having blood drawn, presumably for an HIV blood test. Gupta’s work reflects his diverse background, having lived and studied in India, Canada, the U.S., the UK, and France. Queer challenges our expectations of the body politic and our notions of desire in a collection that merits the attention of any serious student of contemporary photography.

Matthew Hays

 

Queer RightsAbout Canada: Queer Rights
by Peter Knegt
Fernwood. 143 pages, $17.95 (paper)

 

The legal position for Canada’s GLBT citizens is enviable by many international standards, but Peter Knegt is anything but smug in this treatment of his country’s civil-rights evolution. In Queer Rights—the seventh in the “About Canada” series—Knegt takes nothing for granted, pointing out that while full legal equality is something to celebrate, queer Canadians still face numerous social and economic challenges. This succinct, smart volume documents in detail the various legal and political battles that led to Canada becoming the first country in the Western Hemisphere (and the fourth in the world) to legalize same-sex marriage. Knegt is aware that Canadian history is often told only through the prism of its largest city, and he carefully avoids Toronto-centrism by interviewing gay activists from coast to coast. He includes a discussion about the distinct challenges faced by two-spirited aboriginal peoples, recent immigrants, and refugees who are gay and trans, who still face their own set of complex legal hurdles. He quotes a number of articles from the trailblazing (and sadly now defunct) gay and lesbian magazine The Body Politic. And his extensive research has paid off. About Canada: Queer Rights is a crucial and reader-friendly account of a progressive country’s move towards the full legal equality of its sexual minorities.

Matthew Hays

 

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