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The colonial project and the shifting gaze.

While scholarship discussing the history of photography in India has flourished over the past two decades, it is apparent, yet so far unremarked, that the subject has been defined very clearly into two main categories. The first takes as its field the chronological period from the 1840s to 1900, or sometimes 1911, marking out the introduction of photography into India, the colonial manipulation of the camera, and the Indian assimilation of the new technology, concluding the long 19th century with the imperial durbars held in Delhi in 1903 and 1911. The second photographic era in India seems to begin in the 1940s, the years leading up to Indian Independence, and continues until the present day, a narrative that draws strength from the history of the modern Indian art movement. (1)

The creation of time frames is, in itself, hardly surprising as it provides a convenient tool for understanding and presenting the visual arts. What is odd is that the first half of the 20th century should have remained relatively unexamined as the work produced post-1947 has its roots in the photographs of the colonial era. This essay will outline some of the central themes of the colonial period and follow them into the first half of the 20th century, tracing the shifts in the aesthetic, political, and technological discourses of photography in the early and mid 20th century.


The Colonial Enterprise

The camera arrived in the subcontinent in the 1840s and was swiftly recognized and embraced by the East India Company as an effective tool for surveillance and documentation. The desire to survey and record the vast territories under British control had been evident from the early 1800s, but the improvements in speed and cost promised by the camera both encouraged and renewed enthusiasm within official circles. Photographers were sent out in the 1850s, armed with lists of places, buildings, and people to photograph. The results were printed up back in Calcutta or Madras, sometimes at the government art schools, and were then sent back to Britain for the official archive or were sold in large and expensive volumes. Many of the photographers were British army officers--men such as Linnaeus Tripe 1822-1902), Thomas Biggs (1822-1905), and William Pigou (1818-58). They worked with calotypes (a paper negative process), producing results that are comparable to the best work of their contemporaries in Britain and France.


Initially efforts were concentrated on architectural documentation, as British antiquarians saw the stone remains of India's past as reliable historical sources in the absence of written records. The shock of the First War of Independence in 1857, however, focused attention towards ethnographic surveys as a way to know and control the population, by identifying potential allies and enemies. Before 1857, most ethnographic photography had been directed towards salvaging information on different Indian tribes, which the colonial administration feared were about to disappear. (2) Following the 1857 conflict, the work of several photographers, both professional and amateur, was compiled in the eight-volume publication, The People of India (1868-75). The pasted-in photographs were accompanied by descriptive text, indicating the apparent reliability or otherwise of the caste or profession depicted. (3)

Subsequent ethnographic surveys, which largely involved the gathering of anthropometric and other physical data as well as producing population censuses, incorporated photographs believed to illustrate the qualities identified in the external appearances of different castes and tribes. Men and women were placed in front of grids and photographed standing next to measuring rods, even though these props usually had little real scientific use. The photographs were often produced by commercial firms, such as Nicholas & Curths, or occasionally accomplished amateurs such as Dr Benjamin Simpson (1831-1923). The ethnographic portraits usually have titles that classify the sitter either by tribe, caste, or profession, such as "Kathiawar Rajput" or "Fakir", and very rarely are the names of the individuals provided. Far more so than with topographical photography, the State's use of the camera as part of a programme of ethnographic documentation demonstrates dearly the colonial desire both to know and to control the population. The surveys demonstrate, as Christopher Pinney and Malavika Karlekar have both pointed out, a reluctance to engage with the imperial subjects beyond "essentializing" them all to types. (4)

The last few decades have seen these colonial stereotypes exposed as Western ethnographic inventions, and it should also be realized that the photographs are yet further distillations of these stereotypes, created by ethnologists as well as by photographers. The anthropometric image however has had a wide circulation, through postcards in particular, due to its great emotive power. This work can be compared with the photographs of the people of India taken by Sunil Janah (b. 1918) in the 1950s. The individuals in Janah's portraits are noteworthy for the ease at which they appear, and for the fact that they appear as individuals and not ethnographic types.

Architectural surveys continued throughout the 1860s and beyond, gaining impetus from the official establishment of the Archaeological Survey of India in 1870. The ASI, under the directorship of Alexander Cunningham from 1870 and subsequently James Burgess from March 1886, employed certain photographers and purchased the work of others, creating a large archive of images that recorded India from Rameswaram in the south to Amritsar and Lahore in the north. Working within the Western aesthetic of the picturesque, a carefully contrived vision of India was constructed, demonstrating degrees of imperial order and control.


The work of Indian photographers was an important element within these colonial surveys, although it was not at the time considered distinct from any other contribution. A series of architectural views in central India, including Sanchi, Khajuraho, and Gwalior, by Lala Deen Dayal (1844-1905) was deposited in the official archive of the ASI, as was a group of 23 studies of people of Bombay by Hurrichund Chintamon (ft. 1857-c. 1881). The contribution of the Bengali scholar Rajendralala Mitra (1822-91) is particularly noteworthy, as not only was he a founder member of the Photographic Society of Bengal in 1856, but he also wrote academic books on archaeology and sculpture, incorporating prints by British photographers. His expertise was recognized and sought out by antiquarian scholars of all nationalities, and he strongly advocated the use of photography in conducting archaeological research. (5)


While some commercial photographers were able to work under government sponsorship, the majority had to rely on business coming in from the British residents, tourists, and upper-class Indians. Portraits of friends and families--as well as local and foreign celebrities--were distributed as cartes-de-visite: small photographs pasted onto card roughly the same size as modern business cards. Other occasions, such as sporting events, shikar, royal visits, and ceremonial occasions, all called upon the talents of the local photographer to record for posterity the presence and activities of the ruling elite as they conspicuously went about their business. The Imperial Assemblage in Delhi in 1877, announcing Queen Victoria's assumption of the title of "Empress of India", was one such event carefully recorded by India's most successful photographic firm Bourne & Shepherd, established by Samuel Bourne (1834-1912) in 1864. Attending this durbar were representatives of 63 ruling houses of India (more had been invited) who were expected to demonstrate their acceptance of imperial rule firstly by acknowledging Queen Victoria's supreme position as Empress of India, and secondly by occupying their assigned place within the imperial hierarchy, made apparent through banners, gun salutes, and the provision of honours. Photographers were present to record all of this and several publications incorporating photographs were produced, most notably Talboys Wheeler's account, The History of the Imperial Assemblage at Delhi (London, 1877).


"Through Indian Eyes"

There is usually little in the work of a photographer in India in the 19th century to identify his nationality, particularly so within the context of "official photography". The question of authorship is often impossible to answer satisfactorily, even when the studio producing the photograph is known. Many firms such as Bourne & Shepherd, Johnston & Hoffmann, or Deen Dayal & Sons, had several studios around the country, which made it impossible for one person to be responsible for the firm's entire output. Successful businesses employed Europeans and Indians--both men and women--in large numbers. It was not cultural traditions that directed photographers to work in particular ways, but the context in which they were working that influenced the outcome: commercial or amateur, official or unofficial. The work of many talented Indian photographers discussed below often had to span more than one context.

Deen Dayal, one of the most successful photographers in 19th-century India, began learning photography in 1874, according to his own account of his career. (6) While based in Indore, he received patronage from Sir Henry Daly and later Sir Lepel Griffin, who were successively both Agents for Central India, as well as from the Viceroys Lord Northbrook and Lord Dufferin, and the Maharajas of Indore and Dhar. Dayal mentions in his autobiographical note that he was able to photograph "a group of H.R.H. The Prince of Wales and Royal Party in 1875-76". Whether he actually accompanied the Prince on part of his tour rather than just taking a single group portrait is not yet conclusive. However, some photographs of Jaipur in the British Royal Collection acquired by the Prince of Wales during his Indian tour suggest Dayal may have followed the royal party at some stage. If they are indeed by Dayal, they would be the earliest known surviving examples of his work.

In 1884 Dayal was appointed photographer to the Nizam of Hyderabad. As well as keeping commercial studios operational in Indore, Secunderabad, and Bombay, Dayal had to photograph official visits to the state by successive Viceroys and foreign royals, as well as ceremonial events and durbars. This work, intended for consumption by a largely European audience either by purchase or gift, is comparable to the best commercial work produced by any photographer in the late 19th century. Dayal also operated within a more private, domestic sphere, photographing the family of the Nizam. A collection of such work still survives at the Chowmahalla Palace in Hyderabad, where examples have recently been displayed. (7)

Several photographers emerged from the university-educated upper-middle classes in Bombay in the 1850s. Dr Narayan Daji, a graduate of the Grant Medical College, began contributing examples of his work at meetings of the Bombay Photographic Society. In 1857 he presented a series of 31 portraits illustrating different Indian castes and costumes at the annual exhibition of the Bengal Photographic Society. (8) His brother, Dr Bhau Daji Lad (1823-74), was also a photographer, as well as being a well-known and respected doctor. Amongst his many scholarly interests, Bhau Daji collected and translated historical manuscripts from different parts of India and was an active member of the Bombay branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. His historical and antiquarian interests led to his involvement in the development of the Victoria and Albert Museum and gardens in Bombay, which were renamed after him in 1975.

Photography also appealed to the princely classes, with a number of them either learning the technique themselves or employing court photographers. In the case of the latter, the photographers sometimes seemed to be an extension of the concept of "court painter", with photography yet a further skill being added to the existing visual techniques of the family of artists. The courts of Udaipur, Indore, Benares, and Hyderabad all employed photographers whose work was compiled into albums and subsequently presented to significant state visitors as well as recording the domestic sphere of the royal families. At Indore, the work of Pratap Rao and Ramchandra Rao was prodigious and varied and, as Pinney has argued, capable of shifting between different contexts to present both formal, Europeanized representations of kingship as well as more intriguing depictions, such as the portrait of Shivaji Rao Holkar "flying" in an early aeroplane or rowing a small boat. (9)

One of the earliest court photographers, although not on any official level, is Ahmad All Khan, who photographed in the 1850s the Nawab of Awadh Wajid All Shah and members of the royal family, including the begams and their children. Khan, a gentleman amateur, also produced many portraits of Awadhi nobles and members of the British community in Lucknow. His architectural views of the city are deeply revealing documents of a royal city with a strong Shia focus in the immediate pre-1857 period. (10) Khan continued to photograph after 1857, but under the alias Chhote Miyan.

Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II of Jaipur (r. 1835-80) was one of the rulers who learnt to use a camera with great success. He produced well over 2,000 glass negatives, including landscapes, architectural views, and portraits of women in his zenana. (11) The Maharaja also photographed visitors to the court, including Prince Alfred Duke of Edinburgh, the second son of Queen Victoria, who visited Jaipur in 1870. Whilst his public work was in keeping with European artistic tradition, the Maharaja also produced a small number of portraits presenting himself as a holy man surrounded by objects of religious ritual. These portraits are for the time original constructions of kingship, differing dramatically from those royal portraits more commonly seen in records of the imperial durbars.

Family portraits were central to the work of Maharaja Shamarendra Chandra Deb Burman of Tripura (r. 1896-1909), sometimes known as Bara Thakur, who acquired his enthusiasm for photography from his accomplished father Maharaja Bir Chandra Manikya (r. 1862-96). Bir Chandra also produced a series of group portraits of family members in domestic settings, including playing cards, in an album now in the Alkazi Collection. The compositions are carefully structured, influenced by pictorialist work, and were printed to the highest standards. They also recall the work of Shapoor N. Bhedwar, whose output is discussed below.

Changing Technology

From the early 1860s onwards, the majority of photographers in India would have been producing albumen prints made from wet collodion glass negatives. The exposure time was anything from a couple of seconds to a couple of minutes, depending on the conditions. It was a technique that required a considerable amount of skill and practice to master completely, particularly as the glass plate had to be exposed while wet and then developed immediately. The financial costs and the time involved put it beyond the reach of most. The introduction of the gelatin dry plate process in the late 1870s meant that the negative no longer had to be developed on the spot, and along with the subsequent development of gelatin silver papers for printing, more people were able to become involved with photography. The introduction of film-based negatives in the late 1880s truly made photography available on a much wider scale. As the number of practitioners increased and printing became cheaper, there was an inevitable shift in the type of images that were being produced. Amateurs in large numbers began to take their own photographs, marking events and travel without recourse to the professional. Anthropologists could take their own photographs in the field. Archaeological photography became increasingly specialized, as discoveries at sites in the Indus Valley in the early 20th century encouraged the development of systematic excavations, photographed from beginning to end.

Small studios catering to a middle-class clientele and to a largely Indian market were able to flourish in towns across the country, resulting often in a visual language that saw painted backdrops and European props such as a chair and table with a vase of flowers or perhaps a pile of books, combined with techniques such as collage and the hand-painting of portraits. A conventional portrait would show an individual, usually seated but sometimes standing, gazing to the side of the visual frame. Initially the studio surroundings were quite simple but in time more was added to the portrait, including backdrops depicting classical European-style interiors and pieces of Western furniture (or occasionally chinoiserie-style, if this was in fashion at the time). The act of having a portrait taken, as well as the studio setting, was a way of demonstrating status and creating an identity. This was particularly evident in Calcutta where the financial success of the middle classes and emerging confidence of the bhadralok allowed a new use for the camera in depicting the reforms made, noticeably in dress and in the status of women. Some women took up photography themselves, such as Annapurna Dutta (1894-1976) who began working in the 1920s, completing professional commissions. Other photographers contained their output within the family environment, such as the Punjab-born amateur Umrao Singh Sher-Gil (1870-1954). (12) The majority of his photographs are family portraits but many were evidently intended for a wider audience. The use of captions such as "Moods of metaphysical emotion I" in 1908 suggests that the image was produced for exhibition. Umrao Singh experimented with double exposures and movement within the flame as well as working within unusual media including autochromes, rare in India in the early 1920s. His work displays a melancholy self-absorption, if only through the high number of self-portraits, and a questioning of different identities that are played out through the portraits. One very striking self-portrait shows Umrao Singh presenting himself in 1930 as a sadhu, standing in his Parisian apartment. It immediately recalls the self-portrait of the Maharaja of Jaipur as a holy man, mentioned above.

By the turn of the century, it was no longer possible for commercial photographers to work and market their prints in the same way as the 19th-century pioneers. Making a living by producing picturesque landscapes was impossible when, by the end of the 19th century, the picturesque composition had become one of the most widely adopted visual cliches, imitated by amateurs worldwide. Some photographers, working at the extremes of empire, were still able to make a living through surveillance and documentary work. Randolph Bezzant Holmes (1888-1973), a professional photographer and filmmaker, spent a career in the North-West Frontier documenting the frequent conflicts and skirmishes there, producing some of his best work covering the 3rd Afghan War in 1919. His photographs, sometimes reportage following the progress of the war and sometimes consciously "fine art" (particularly in the case of his portraits), demonstrate the influences and tensions typical of early 20th-century photographers. Also working around the turn of the century was the amateur photographer John Claude White (1853-1918), whose panoramic landscapes of Sikkim, Bhutan, and Tibet display a similar tension. The demands of an imperial military expedition pull the work between objective documentary photography and the artistic concerns of the photographer. Behind the work of

both men, in terms of composition and printing techniques, is the influence of the pictorialists, whose work in Europe and the US had a considerable impact in India.


One of the earliest exponents of a pictorialist style in India was Shapoor N. Bhedwar (active 1890s-1900s), a Bombay-based photographer who travelled to England to exhibit his work and to participate in the activities of the Brotherhood of the Linked Ring, which had been founded in April 1892. The members of the Linked Ring were dedicated to art photography, reacting against industrialization in general and the ease of the instantaneous "snapshot" in particular. Bhedwar and his colleagues sought to produce work that consciously drew on the conventions of painting, emphasizing the photographer as artist. They constructed compositions that were often inspired by allegorical or mythical subject matter. Bhedwar is particularly known for a sequence of photographs that depict the story of a young girl coming under the influence of a holy man and as a result deciding to give up her family life for an existence of mystical contemplation. The beautifully printed plates contain images that draw their formal composition from the European academic tradition, yet the participants are Indian as is the theme. A comparison with the work of the painter Ravi Varma is inevitable as well as illuminating, as it suggests possible resonances with broader developments in Indian art that are continued up to the 1940s.

The influence that pictorialism had was broad and far-reaching in India. The style was adopted by the majority of serious amateur photographers, as is evident from the discussions and examples reproduced in the Journal of the Photographic Society of India. (13) In a number of issues during the 1920s, a frontispiece was included, highlighting the work of a particular member of the Society. In 1925, a photograph titled, "Cooking the Dinner" by T.S. Dandayuthapany was published, as it had won the first prize in the Society's annual competition. (14) It is a carefully composed frame, with the fire as the central light source, softly illuminating the woman's face as she concentrates on the cooking. Women were frequently used as models by amateur photographers, who posed them displaying coy or shy attitudes, such as Sachin Ghose's "Portrait", which won the third prize in the 1925 competition.

The important role played by the Photographic Society was that of introducing the work of leading foreign--in particular, British--photographers to an Indian audience. Apart from the exchange of journals that took place, allowing members to read of developments in the USA, Australia, and European countries, the journal editorials would discuss the photographic entries in competitions in India and elsewhere. British photographers frequently sent their work to India for inclusion in (for example) the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Fine Arts in Calcutta, first held in 1921-22. The highly fashionable British society photographer Marcus Adams (1875-1959) contributed a series of child studies to the 1921-22 exhibition. (15) His work, generally consisting of soft, romantic, hazily-lit studio compositions, always printed to the highest standards, was exactly the kind of work that was being promoted through the journal and its competitions, and that is still to a certain extent favoured in local photographic societies across the country.

The Promise of Modernism

What is noticeably omitted from the discussions of the Society, however, is any example of modernist work, or anything influenced by modernism, at a time when Europe was dramatically rejecting the pictorial or art photograph in favour of work that challenged traditional definitions of art, its social context and function. Modernist work was often politically charged, confronting existing ideologies and positions in which individuals worked and lived, seeking instead to promote an ideal socialist vision. The colonial administration in India would, consciously or unconsciously, have found this unacceptable, particularly so at a time when, under the leadership of Gandhi, the Congress Party was organizing non-violent struggles and civil disobedience campaigns against the government. Some of the early activities of Congress and its leaders were photographed, notably by Kanu Gandhi (1917-86), (16) but surprisingly little material was produced, probably because there was no way for the images to be widely distributed. Newspapers had been closely censored since the British administration passed the Rowlatt Act in 1919. It would have been very difficult for a photographer to make a living while documenting the satyagraha of the 1920s-30s without the aid of a group or organization.

Some, however, did receive support early on in their careers. Shambhu Shaha (1905-88) was given a job by the YMCA in Calcutta, preparing slides for lectures on the life of Christ. During this time, Shaha was able to explore the library, obtaining an awareness of the German Bauhaus movement, which he says gradually changed his entire conception of photography. (17) He was successful enough to turn freelance in 1932, although he received patronage from the Raja of Narajole, as well as commissions from the ruling families of Gwalior and Patankar. (18) In 1935, Shaha was invited for the first time to Santiniketan, where he was to become a frequent visitor, making portraits and capturing life at Visva-Bharati until the death of Rabindranath Tagore in 1941.

Apart from his work at Santiniketan, Shaha produced landscapes, portraits, and even made delicate studies of Abanindranath Tagore's still-life compositions ("Katum-kutum"). His photographs represented India at the Chicago World Fair in 1939. Shaha continued to work after Independence in 1947, producing some of his most powerful images while documenting the East Bengal refugees in 1971. (19) His work also had an influence on the following generation of photographers, in particular Sunil Janah who first visited him in his studio in Calcutta in the 1930s. (20) Shaha later said that it was the "candid" moment that he sought in his photographs, rather than relying on posed or studio-based compositions and it is this approach that appears to have been embraced by Janah. (21)

Janah's first photographic commission was accompanying P.C. Joshi, general secretary of the Communist Party of India, to document the Bengal Famine of 1943. His photographs are remarkable, capturing the tragedy of starving and dying people even as he maintained his subjects' dignity. A comparison with the work of the British photographer Willoughby Wallace Hooper (1837-1912) who photographed the victims of the earlier Madras Famine in 1876-78 is revealing. Janah's relative sympathy is highlighted all the more against the detached nature of Hooper's classical tableaux, in which starving individuals are arranged like impassive statues.

Janah's photographs of the famine were published around the world. The success of his first commission led to full-time work for the Communist Party, documenting the freedom struggle and its leaders, as well as the social conditions of the peasants and workers of India. He was sought out by the American photographer Margaret Bourke-White (1904-71) in 1946 and they subsequently travelled and photographed together in south India, as Bourke-White completed her assignments for Life magazine during 1946-48. (22) Bourke-White's dedication and aesthetic approach undoubtedly had an effect on the younger Janah. They were both committed to recording and publicizing the social conditions of the ordinary people of India. Bourke-White's earlier attachment to large-format cameras in the US, however, directed her approach even when she tried to use a 35mm camera--the results were often unspontaneous and her subjects seem stiff and posed. (23) Toffs contrasts with the elegant and refined work of British portraitist Cecil Beaton (1904-80) who spent seven months in India in 1944, working for the Ministry of Information. (24) His photographs encompass architectural and topographical views, street scenes, and studies of ordinary working people, but it is his portraits of India's ruling classes (both Indian and British) that stand out. Unsurprisingly for someone who was deeply alive to the nuances of class, Beaton's portrait of the Maharaja and Maharani of Jaipur at home with their dog presents a regal, confident couple whereas the photograph of Sir David Colville, the Governor of Bombay, with his wife, seated on ornate thrones in court dress, displays an awkward anxiety. Beaton obliquely seems to provide a silent commentary on the suitability (or otherwise) of the weakening colonial administration.


Arriving in the late summer of 1947, Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) began his work in India photographing the refugees from newly-created Pakistan at camps in Kurukshetra. Then early in 1948, both Cartier-Bresson and Bourke-White photographed Gandhi as he fasted in order to halt the conflicts between Hindus and Muslims. Neither was present when Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, but they rushed back immediately on hearing the news to photograph the aftermath and the funeral. Both were to document events as photojournalists, recording everything that occurred, but the results were quite different. (25) While Bourke-White's work suggests she remained an outside observer, Cartier-Bresson's work forces the viewer deep inside the events that are taking place. His work covering Gandhi's funeral (which is quite unlike much of the work for which he is famous and which is also very different to his 1966 photographs in India) marks the end of the dominance of colonial photography. The colonial gaze does not necessarily disappear completely at this point, but the elements of the colonial approach--in particular, the "essentializing" and objectifying of India, and the practice of photography as a tool of power--are no longer dominant. Finally the photographer ceases to be an onlooker and becomes instead a participant, drawing the viewer into events, with empathy for the individual. It is in Cartier-Bresson's work during this traumatic period of India's history that we can locate the birth of the modern in photography in India. The dramatic and emotional photograph of Gandhi's secretary looking with grief at the funeral pyre is perhaps the most powerful example of this.

Yet it is not just the influence of foreign (albeit noncolonial) photographers who provided the impetus for new approaches from Indian photographers, as the work of Shambhu Shaha and Sunil Janah demonstrates. It was the confidence that came from India's new status as an independent nation that created the energy and belief that India could now look firmly forward and embrace the modern.

Further Bibliographic References

Anand, Mulk Raj (ed.). Photography: Images of India, Marg, Vol. 14, no. 1, Bombay, 1960.

Bourke-White, Margaret. Halfway to Freedom: A Report on the New India in the Words and Photos of Margaret Bourke-White. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1949.

Cartier-Bresson, Henri. Henri Cartier-Bresson in India. Foreword by Satyajit Ray. Thames and Hudson, London, 1987.

Gadihoke, Sabeena. "Indian Sub-continent 1900-47", in Robin Lenman, ed., The Oxford Companion to the Photograph. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005, p. 303.

Gordon, Sophie. "Uncovering India: Studies of Nineteenth-Century Indian Photography", History of Photography, Vol. 28, no. 2, Summer 2004, pp. 180-90.

Guha-Thakurta, Tapati. Visual Worlds of Modern Bengal. An Introduction to the Pictorial and Photographic Material in the Documentation Archive of the CSSSC. The Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, 2002.

Karlekar, Malavika (ed.). Visualizing Indian Women 1875-1947. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2006.

Meyer, Kurt and Pamela Deuel Meyer. In the Shadows of the Himalayas. Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Sikkim. A Photographic Record by John Claude White 1883-1908. Mapin Publishing, Ahmedabad, 2005.

Panjiar, Prashant (ed.). The Definitive Images. 1858 to the present. Introduction by Khushwant Singh. Penguin Books Ltd. India and Dorling Kindersley Ltd., New Delhi, 2004.

Pepper, Terence. Beaton Portraits. National Portrait Gallery, London, 2004.


(1.) A list of the principal titles dealing with photography in India illustrates the point: Clark Worswick, The Last Empire: Photography in British India 1855-1911, New York, 1980; John Falconer, A Shifting Focus: Photography in India 1850-1900, London, 1995; Victor Anant/Aperture, India. A Celebration of Independence, 1947-1997, New York, 1997; Vidya Dehejia, ed. India through the Lens: Photography 1840-1911, Washington DC, 2000; John Falconer, India. Pioneering Photographers 1850-1900, London, 2001; Maria Antonella Pelizzari (ed.), Traces of India. Photography, Architecture and the Politics of Representation, 1850-1900, Montreal, 2003. The notable exception to this is G. Thomas, The History of Photography in India 1840-1940, Pondicherry, 1981.

(2.) Pinney identifies these two approaches as the "detective" paradigm and the "salvage" paradigm. Christopher Pinney, Camera Indica: The Social Life of Indian Photographs, London, 1997, p. 45.

(3.) John Forbes Watson and John William Kaye, The People of India: A Series of Photographic Illustrations with Descriptive Letterpress of the Races and Tribes of Hindustan, 8 vols., London, 1868-75. The production of this publication is discussed at length in John Falconer, " 'A pure labor of love': A publishing history of The People of India", in Eleanor M. Hight and Gary D. Sampson (eds.), Colonialist Photography: Imag(in)ing Race and Place, London and New York, 2002, pp. 51-83.

(4.) Pinney, op. cit.; Malavika Karlekar, Re-visioning the Past. Early Photography in Bengal, 1875-1915, New Delhi, 2005.

(5.) Rajendralala disagreed on a number of occasions with the ruling establishment, and as a result of a speech in which he criticized European indigo planters was thrown out of the Photographic Society of Bengal in 1857 (but was reinstated in 1868). The speech was presented within the context of the extension of the jurisdiction of mofussil courts to include Europeans, notably the indigo planters. He also entered into a debate in print with the architectural historian James Fergusson, who had responded badly to certain conclusions reached by Rajendralala which differed from his own. It is not clear whether Rajendralala took any photographs, other than family portraits, however (Karlekar, op. cit., pp. 137-48).

(6.) The papers of Ray Desmond in the British Library contain the typescript of an autobiographical account of Deen Dayal's career (Mss Eur D1132/11). The source of the original manuscript is not stated, but it has been presumed to have come from the descendants of the photographer.

(7.) Deepthi Sasidharan, Photographic Treasures of the Chowmahalla Palace Collection, Hyderabad, 2005.

(8.) Falconer, A Shifting Focus, pp. 13-15.

(9.) Pinney, op. cit., p. 88-90.

(10.) Sophie Gordon, "A City of Mourning: The Representation of Lucknow, India in Nineteenth-Century Photography", History of Photography, 30:1, 2006, pp. 80-91.

(11.) Vidya Dehejia, "Maharajas as Photographers", in Dehejia, ed., op. cir., pp. 226-29.

(12.) Stuart Hall and Mark Sealy, Different: A historical context. Contemporary photographers and black identity London, 2001, p. 11. Recontres d'Arles 2007. Photographie, Aries, 2007, pp. 184-93.

(13.) The first issue of the journal was produced in 1887. It took over, after a break of some years, from the publications of the three earlier photographic societies, based in Bombay (est. 1854), Madras (est. 1856), and Calcutta (est. 1856).

(14.) Journal of the Photographic Society of India, 40, December 1925.

(15.) Journal of the Photographic Society of India, 36, November 1921.

(16.) Peter Ruhe, Gandhi, London, 2001.

(17.) Chandrima Shaha, Captured Moments: A Life. Shambhu Shaha, Calcutta, 2001, p. 6.

(18.) A.L. Syed (1904-91), a successful contemporary of Shaha, also relied on royal patronage, as did his elder brother K.L. Syed. The latter in particular spent most of his career working for the Nawab of Palanpur. See, O.E Sharma, Vision from the Inner Eye. The Photographic Art of A.L. Syed, Ahmedabad, 2001.

(19.) Shaha, op. cit., p. 31.

(20.) Ibid., p. 8.

(21.) Ibid., p. 83.

(22.) V.K. Ramachandran, "Documenting society and politics: A feature on the photography of Sunil Janah", Frontline, 15:19, September 12-15, 1998.

(23.) Claude Cookman, "Margaret Bourke-White and Henri Cartier-Bresson: Gandhi's Funeral", History of Photography, 22:2, Summer 1998, pp. 199-209.

(24.) Jane Carmichael, "Introduction", in Cecil Beaton, Indian Diary and Album, Oxford, 1991. Beaton's photographs were published in the newspapers in Britain at the end of the war.

(25.) Cookman, op. cit., p. 202. Cookman lucidly explains why Cartier-Bresson, despite his denials, practised photojournalism in India. Cartier-Bresson is generally known for capturing the candid, fleeting, yet significant event in a single frame, which he described as "the decisive moment" (The Decisive Moment, 1952). Many of Cartier-Bresson's Indian photographs from 1966 exemplify this approach.
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Author:Gordon, Sophie
Publication:Marg, A Magazine of the Arts
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jun 1, 2008
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