British photographic history

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Historic Delhi: Early Explorations of the Camera, c. 1860-1950

Event Details

Historic Delhi: Early Explorations of the Camera, c. 1860-1950

Time: October 1, 2010 to November 7, 2010
Location: National Gallery of Modern Art
Street: Jaipur House, India Gate
City/Town: New Delhi - 110003
Website or Map:…
Phone: New Delhi 011 - 23386111
Event Type: exhibition
Organized By: National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi in collaboration with Alkazi Foundation For The Arts
Latest Activity: Sep 29, 2010

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Event Description

Photography was introduced in India in the 1840s. There began a gradual setting up of the photographic societies in India henceforth, from 1855 onwards in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. The medium received patronage not only from the elite rulers and professional practitioners who set up studios, but also from the British administration, to document and survey the entire country.

Says Prof Rajeev Lochan, Director NGMA: “NGMA’s last show of photographs by India’s first woman photographer Homai Vyarawalla was a huge success among viewers of all generations. Buoyed by the success of that historical show, and in keeping with the spirit of the Commonwealth Games in the city, NGMA once again brings a show that celebrates our cultural heritage through these archival pictures.”

The history of photography in Delhi is also due in part to the coming of early artists and painters who traveled here and so photography can also be considered a continuation of those forms of visualization. The early picturesque painters such as the Daniells, spent over 10 years here, in the 18th Century, traveling the country, often in the footsteps of other itinerant painters, such as William Hodges. These painters were affected by ideas of the sublime and beautiful. Other artists from the Company School in India (1775-1910), who were patronized by Europeans, also created a visual language akin to that of photography by documenting the trades and professions of those who resided in the city.

The coming of early photography to Delhi and other Northern states was therefore influenced by the above and one of the earliest professional photographers here was Samuel Bourne, from the later established company of Bourne and Shepherd. Delhi emerges as a city in the immediate aftermath of the Uprising of 1857. Most of the sites therefore captured by photographers are those affected by the mutiny and later led to the memoralisation of the sites by the British to keep alive the memory of their deceased. Similarly, with the transfer of power to the British Crown, the Durbars of Delhi in 1877, 1903 and 1911, conducted under the supervision of the three Viceroys, leads to the visualization of Delhi as an imperial capital. The 1911 Durbar therefore leads to the transfer of all administrative power to Delhi from Calcutta and even the reversal of the partition of Bengal. Delhi pays host to over 250,000 people in the last durbar.

Photography plays a key role throughout the early modern visualization of Delhi and is circulated through loose photographs, souvenir albums, transformed into engravings and circulated in newspapers and journals, and even as postcards in the early 20th century. It plays a key function as a propaganda tool, as a mode of enquiry and surveillance, as well as a form of art, all of which play a part in the later 20th Century, when the documentation of Delhi shifts to the burgeoning national movement.

10 a.m. - 5 p.m. (closed on Monday).

Photo: Samuel Bourne, Chandini Chowk, 1860s, Albumen
Print. The Alkazi Collection of Photography

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