In partnership with Vacheron Constantin, supported by Singleton

Sebastian Cortés - Sidhpur: Time Present Time Past

Sebastian Cortés’ series Sidhpur: Time Present Time Past forms the first in-depth photographic exploration of the Bohra Islamic community in Sidhpur, a little-known small town in Gujarat. Chancing upon Sidhpur while on a commission for The Oberoi Magazine, Cortés was intrigued by its rich heritage and distinctive vernacular architecture. Building on from the ideas explored in his previous series Pondicherry, 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 Bohra’s 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.

“The inhabitants of most of the homes seem to have a rather distant relationship with the homes and the content…Few could really give me any clear explanation or offer details about the architecture or the detailing… Efforts to share glimpses of their rich heritage were limited to showing me a few old photographs of important family members or reacting to the questions I would pose,” recalls Cortés.  In many ways therefore, this series is both a comment on the slow dissolution of a culture, and an exercise in preservation, a record of ‘the remains of the day’.

Internationally recognised as a lifestyle and fashion photographer, Cortés has always maintained a firm commitment to fine art photography. Influenced by the American school of photography in the tradition of Stephen Shore and William Eggleston, and Fox Talbot’s astute observation of the camera’s special aptitude for recording “the injuries of time”, he has developed a highly personal analysis of the camera as an instrument for recording “the layering of time and sense of place”. This is clearly illustrated in the photographs exhibited here, which resonate with a sense of loss, ruin and decay, “a melancholy that is tied to the recognition of the simultaneity of Time Present and Time Past” as the art critic Rosalyn D’Mello writes in her essay, And the Non Museum which was written in response to this exhibition, and published in the exhibition catalogue.

Exhibition Schedule


08 August - 28 August 2021

Sua House
26/1 Karturba Cross Road
Bangalore 560001
Monday to Saturday 10.00 am – 6.00 pm


22 August - 31 August 2021

National Institute of Design
Design Gallery, Paldi
Ahmedabad - 380007
4:00 pm to 8:00 pm daily


07 January - 21 January 2022

The Harrington Street Arts Centre
8 Ho Chi Minh Sarini
Harrington Mansions 2nd Floor
Flat no.5 & 25B
Kolkata 700071 

Monday to Saturday 12.00 pm - 7.00 pm  

New Delhi

20 February - 09 March 2022

Exhibit320, F- 320 Lado Sarai, New Delhi - 110030

Special Panel Discussion with artist Sebastian Cortés, Rosalyn D’Mello and Aman Nath,
organised in collaboration with the Nazar Foundation & chaired by Prashant Panjiar
on 20th February 2015, 6.30 pm


25 February - 07 March 2022

Gallery Gitanjali, 
E-212, 31st January Road
Fountainhas, Panjim
Goa 403001

Monday to Saturday, 9.00 AM - 7.00 PM

Sebastian Cortés in conversation with Rosalyn D’Mello
on 27 Feb 2015, 3:45 pm Institute Menezes Braganza, Panaji, Goa


22 March - 30 April 2022

Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum
Veer Mata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan (Rani Baug)
91/A, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Road, Byculla East,
Mumbai 400027