Through his photography, Anup Mathew Thomas presents images that are both personal and specific but that also ask broader cultural questions. Drawing on various genres including photojournalism, documentary, and fashion, his work presents a diverse set of approaches to the human subject. In presenting his work as projected images as well as prints, Mathew Thomas also brings a reflexive engagement with the modalities and history of his chosen medium.
In 2005, during the Khoj two-week international artists' workshop in Mumbai, India, Mathew Thomas developed LightLife - a photo installation on the dance bars of Mumbai. Around the time of the workshop, the Maharashtra government (the state where Mumbai is located) had ordered for a closure of Mumbai's dance bars, 'saying they corrupt young men and breed crime and prostitution'. The photographs in LightLife capture the dance bars 'alive' with scintillating lights and shimmering colours but devoid of any human presence. As the photographs cross-faded into each other the lights created a hauntingly poetic sense of motion. The work encourages reflection on the politics of moral censure even as it explores unused spaces that lurk within our larger urban experience.
In NCA Library, 2006, Anup presents a sequence of projected photographs sampled from the closed circuit cameras monitoring the National College of Arts library in Lahore, Pakistan. The projection reveals the artist's subversive act of placing his own catalogues in amongst the library stock. This project, developed while on a residency at the artist-led space VASL, in Lahore, could be seen as a comment on how informal exchanges based on cultures of sharing sit uncomfortably within formal protocols of knowledge production that are bound up within the panoptics of institutionality.
His most recent work, Metropolitan, 2006 is a series of photographs of bishops representing the various denominations of Christianity within Kerala, India. Metropolitan is produced as large prints and displayed as a continuous wall of images that foreground the sheer diversity within the denominations. Viewers are also made aware of the remarkably plural social characteristics in this coastal state, questioning many of our assumptions around modernity, identity and social change.