Sebastian Cortés’ series Sidhpur: Time Present Time Past forms the first in-depth photographic exploration of the Dawoodi Bohras, an elusive and veiled Islamic community in Sidhpur, a little-known small town in Gujarat.

Traditionally a trading community by profession, the Bohras are a people who constantly invented and reinvented their identity in keeping with their migratory patterns. The synthesis of influences that comprise 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. Capturing 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, Cortés’ images allude to the past contained within the present.

Simultaneously commenting on the slow dissolution of a culture and functioning as a record of ‘the remains of the day’, these photographs are an exploratory exercise in biography, metaphor and geography, themes constant in Cortés’ work.

Internationally recognized as a lifestyle and fashion photographer, Cortés has always maintained a firm commitment to fine art photography. Influenced by the American New Topographics in the tradition of Stephen Shore, 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 melacholic loss.