Internationally recognised as a lifestyle and fashion photographer, Sebastian Cortés’ most recent series Sidhpur: Time Present Time Past is an in-depth photographic exploration of the Bohra Islamic community in Sidhpur, a little-known small town in Gujarat. Building on his desire to explore forms of biography, memory and metaphor—this latest exhibition demonstrates Cortés’ continuing interest in documenting and uncovering India’s more enigmatic facets, this time through careful photographic studies of the traditional habitats and domestic spaces of the Dawoodi Bohras, an elusive and veiled Islamic community.

Traditionally a trading community by profession—indeed, the term Bohra derives from the Gujarati term vehru or trade—the Bohras are a people who constantly invented and reinvented their identity in keeping with migratory patterns. Absorbing and negotiating influences around them, their complex cultural makeup is strikingly reflected in their entirely unique architecture that is an amalgamation of Hindu, Islamic, Persian, European and Colonial styles.

Cortés’ approach is to “take time to unveil small narratives”, and continually highlight photography’s ability to capture, expose and visually interpret lingering moods and inherent natures contained within domestic architectural spaces. The photographs in this series are saturated with fragments of what was once valued, of past luxuries and prizes, that despite neglect resist decay and refuse to be entirely dismissed. He captures the residual memories, histories and traces of past lives that persist in the facades of buildings, in empty rooms, windows, doors, stairways, and other distinguishing features of Bohra architecture. Through doing this Cortés’ images allude to the past contained within the present.

Commenting on the slow dissolution of a culture in its encounter with  modernity, Cortés creates an ambiguous reality where the past and present blur and merge, where the architecture and  physical environment become cultural artefacts, allowing the viewer to penetrate through the walls and access the inner realm of homes, spaces, lives and domestic routines of  this otherwise concealed community.

(Tasveer and the Dr Bhau Daji Lad City Museum present “Sebastian Cortés -
Sidhpur: Time Present Time Past” in Mumbai, as part of the gallery’s 9th season of exhibitions, in partnership with Vacheron Constantin and The Singleton of Glen Ord.The exhibition will stay on view at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum until April 30, 2015.)

Images courtesy: Tasveer

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Abbas Vagh House.
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Amena Calcuttawala House.
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Baitul Tarbiyat (Orphanage for Girls).

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Exterior of Hararwala House.

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Innermost Chamber Saifuddin Vagh House.
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Jhaveri House.

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Lady of the house at Roshanbhai Hararwala House.

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Najam Hararwala House.

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Saifuddin Vagh House.

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Saifuddin Vagh House.
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Street of Islampura.

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Street of Saifeepura.