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Flashback to explore history of photography

mumbai Updated: Mar 15, 2010 01:24 IST
Purva Mehra

To highlight the significance of photography as a field of historical research, Jnanapravaha, a centre for cultural studies, is hosting a three-day lecture series on, The Dawn of Photography in India: 1850-1940.

“In India there is a great leaning towards the fine arts, creating a history of the modern art movement, however photography remains somewhat ignored as a viable art form that has a traceable history,” said Rahaab Allana, one of two speakers at the lecture series and curator of the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, Delhi.

Over a series of six talks, Allana and Akshaya Tankha, a research scholar at the Alkazi Foundation, will explore novel paradigms that appeared with the birth of photography, such as the arrival of the camera, the hybrid of the painted photograph and the advent of studio photography. With the aid of the Alkazi Foundation’s vast photographic archives, Tankha will focus on the rise of ethnographic photography and explore the prehistory of photojournalism shaped in the course of events such as the 1857 Uprising.

“The country has an invaluable legacy of a visual practice that stretches back to 1840, a year after its invention in Europe. This traceable history allows us to view the world as it existed then,” said Tankha,

The talks aim to draw students of art history, anthropology and critical studies. “We’re trying to stress on the importance of maintaining personal archives as they lend insights to our history and to uncover new archives in the country,” Allana said.

Tankha said being at the right place to capture an event was as important for Felice Beato (who documented the aftermath of the Uprising of 1857) as it was for Homai Vyarawala at the time of India’s independence or for Pablo Bartholomew at the time of the Bhopal gas tragedy.

“But the platform for viewing and consuming photography was vastly different at the time. Exhibitions organised by photographic societies formed the main venues for the display of images. It was a rarefied space for the elite, far removed from the ubiquitous newspapers and magazines of today,” Tankha said.

The three-day event will also include the screening of two films, Calcutta: A City of Photos and The British Empire in Colour.

(Lectures on The Dawn of Photography in India: 1850-1940 will held from March 17 to 19 at the Queens Mansion, 3rd floor, G Talwatkar Marg, Fort. Registration fee: Rs 1000, for students Rs 250. For registration mail: jnanapravaha@gmail.com)