• Aug 18, 2018
India’s forgotten heroes of photography

India is blessed to have many amazing photographers over the time. On this World Photography Day, Photofie is paying tribute to the bygone heroes of photography who made the significant contributions in the field of photography.  

Homai Vyarawalla 

Commonly known by her pseudonym Dalda 13, India’s first women photojournalist Homai Vyarawalla was awarded by the second highest civilian award of the Republic of India- Padma Vibhushan in 2011. 

Vyarawalla's black-and-white images poetically captured monumental moments in India's history, such as the first flag raising, the departure of British Viceroy Lord Mountbatten and the funeral of Mahatma Gandhi. 

Homai Vyarawalla decided to give up photography after her husband’s death lamenting over the "bad behavior" of the new generation of photographers. She did not take a single photograph in the last 4 decades of her life. When asked about why she quit photography, she said 

"It was not worth it anymore. We had rules for photographers; we even followed a dress code. We treated each other with respect, like colleagues. But then, things changed for the worst. They [the new generation of photographers] were only interested in making a few quick bucks; I didn't want to be part of the crowd anymore." 

Kulwant Roy 

Kulwant Roy, whose works were nearly lost in oblivion until photographer Aditya Arya brought them back into public consciousness, opens up a window into the past, offering insights into Indian photojournalism and the country's collective history through his photography. 

Among his most iconic photographs is one of Jinnah and Gandhi arguing on the verandah of his bungalow. Others include a similarly well-known photograph of Nehru and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan walking as AICC representatives to meet the Cabinet Mission while a rickshaw carrying Patel travels alongside. A photograph of Nehru and Patel listening intently to Gandhi at a Congress Working Committee meeting was made into a commemorative stamp after Patel's death in 1950 and also won a silver plaque from Amrita Bazar Patrika as the best news photograph of the year. 

Following mainstream national leaders, major meetings and events, travels and engagements, his work capture the spirit and energy, hopes and aspirations of that time. 

Raja Deen Dayal 

Raja Deen Dayal began his career in the mid-1870s as a commissioned photographer.  Maharaja Tukoji Rao II of Indore state-sponsored and encouraged him to set up his studio in Indore. Soon he was getting commissions from Maharajas and the British Raj. He was commissioned to photograph the governor general's tour of Central India. Deen Dayal founded his studio – Lala Deen Dayal & Sons in 1868 and was subsequently commissioned to photograph temples and palaces of India.  

Deen Dayal photographed the Royal Tour of the Prince and Princess of Wales. He also travelled with Sir Lepel Griffin through Bundelkhand, photographing the ancient architecture of the region. Sir Griffin commissioned him to do archaeological photographs which resulted in a portfolio of 86 photographs, known as "Famous Monuments of Central India.” 

Deen Dayal received the Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria. He received the title “Bold Warrior of Photography” from the nizam of Hyderabad. 

Raghubir Singh 

Raghubir Singh was a self-taught photographer who worked in India and lived in Hong Kong, Paris, London and New York. Singh is considered a pioneer of colour photography. In the 1970s he was one of the first photographers to insist on the use of colour at a time when colour photography was still widely disconsidered. 

Over the course of his prolific career, Singh published 13 photobooks and drew a unique portrait of his country that has few equivalents in scope and ambition. Today his work is part of the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, amongst others. 

Singh's work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions and he is acknowledged internationally as a visionary photographer. 

Benu Sen

Benu Sen served as Secretary General, Federation of Indian Photography and President of Photographic Association of Dum Dum was the living legend in the field of International Pictorial Photography. His contribution both as an individual artist and as a promoter for the development of Indian Photography is perhaps exceeded that of any Indian Photographer. 

He was the 3rd man in the world to have received the rare honour of ‘Master of Photography’ (M.F.I.A.P.) from the Federation International de L’Art Photographique, a body under the recognition of UNESCO. He was the only living Hon. EFIAP in India. 

Benu Sen, along with his friends, established the Photographic Association of Dumdum (PAD) to practice, propagate and discuss the nuances of this art form. He also set up a state-of-the-art photography department in the Indian Museum Kolkata, which was the first of this kind in India. 

He introduced colour photogram and colour separation from Black & White Negatives in India. He was conferred lifetime achievement award by Government of India in 2010 for his valuable contribution in the field of creative photography.