Hide and Seek

A psychological exploration of the LGBT community in eastern India

01 April 2018
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IN AN IMAGE from Soumya Sankar Bose’s photographic series, two bodies are locked in an embrace, with only their silhouettes visible. Despite being in the shadows, their intimacy is palpable—in the tilt of their heads, the tenderness of the embrace and the intensity of their gaze.

In Bose’s composition, light entering through the window falls on a crown of flowers worn by one of the individuals, perhaps to suggest to the viewer the nature of their hidden identities in real life. This play of light hides as much as it reveals.

Immersing the viewer in a surreal universe is crucial to Bose’s project “Full moon on a Dark Night.” By way of these portraits, Bose conducts a psychological exploration of a community of individuals who have been relentlessly persecuted by society because of their identities and their gender or sexual orientations. The work looks closely at the LGBT community in eastern India through a fantastical lens, often projecting a world devoid of restrictive laws and social taboos that the community regularly comes up against. Other images in the work are responses to these very constraints imposed by the state and society. It is here that Bose makes use of visual metaphors—a gas mask, a tiger in the wild, a choppy sea engulfing a man struggling against the current—to evoke notions of censorship and surveillance and feelings of suffocation and anxiety.

Soumya Sankar Bose earned a diploma in photography from the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, Dhaka. His project Full Moon on a Dark Night was awarded the Magnum Foundation's Photography and Social Justice Fellowship in 2017. In 2015, he received the India Foundations for the Arts grant for his project Lets Sing an Old Song. 

Keywords: gender LGBT community Section 377 Kolkata sexuality transgender