Ahead of Independence Day (August 15), get nostalgic by visiting the National Gallery of Modern Art’s (NGMA) exhibition titled, Visual Archives Of Kulwant Roy. Showcasing over 300 rare photographs, clicked between the late ’20s and ’70s, the retrospective also marks the birth centenary of the lensman and former head of the Associated Press Photographs.
Jinnah and Gandhi; circa 1939. (Photo: Kulwant Roy Collection/ Aditya Arya Archives)
Explaining the history of acquiring the prints, curator Aditya Arya says, “Roy worked at my grandfather’s studio, where he learnt photography. Before his death in the ’80s, he handed over his collection to me, including his cameras and diaries.”Gandhi and Rajendra Prasad.
The photographs are a visual documentation of major events during Roy’s time and some crucial meetings. There are glimpses from historic incidents like the sessions of the Indian National Congress, the June 3 meeting with the Viceroy Mountbatten in 1947 that finalised the Partition of India, signing of the Indian Constitution as well as numerous closed-door meetings of the Muslim League. Left: Gandhi alighting from a train. He always travelled in 3rd class. Around 1940s.
Right: Jawaharlal Nehru with Pamella Mountbatten in 1948.
Arya, who has been cataloguing and restoring the prints, asserts that he has maintained the originality of the works without tampering with them. “Many of Roy’s works were damaged, cracked, and decaying and disintegrating. But, I believe, whenever there’s an original work, it must be preserved,” says Arya.Gandhi and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan at a prayer meeting.
While going through the pictures, some works might look familiar, as many of his photographs have been printed in various history text books, but without any attribution. “We found that there were many photos that originated from his collection. So, we have raised this issue with the concerned bodies, and recently, got many of the iconic photos attributed,” says Arya.Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and Gandhi in 1946.