Over 40 years, from the 1940s to the 1980s, Ram Dhamija, 87, photojournalist and writer, trained his camera on life around him. The pictures, “hundreds of dusty negatives and contact sheets”, lay about in his home in New Delhi for years, until his son, Himman, decided to sift through them. The result is the exhibition: ‘Preoccupations: Forty Years of Imaging India’.
The 42 prints here can be grouped into two sets. One, portraits of Dhamija’s artist set — M.F. Husain (painting with Jama Masjid in the background), Balasaraswati (a series of impromptu poses) and Simkie, Uday Shankar’s dance partner (“she was also his girlfriend”, says Himman).
Two, the pictures Dhamija took in the course of his work with the Press Information Bureau (he retired as its director). These are largely ethnographic studies, titled Dalit Man, Girl Writing, and so on. But his job also gave him uncommon access to people in power. Indira Gandhi, for instance, is shot posing jauntily with her jacket round her shoulder, and portraits of Le Corbusier.
It’s a remarkable body of work, opening a window into a gentler, more innocent era.