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In photos: Impressions of India from the dawn of photography to the 21st century

Art of delight.
Art of delight.
Image: © Alkazi Foundation for the Arts
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Soon after the invention of the very first camera in the 19th century, photography spread far and wide in colonial India.

Administrators of the British Raj apart, Indians themselves took to documenting people, landscapes, and architecture around them. Over the years, a variety of photography societies and studios mushroomed in what were then Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras, and pioneers such as Maharaja Ram Singh II from Jaipur and later Homai Vyarawalla, the country’s first woman photojournalist, would go on to capture the many different facets of Indian life on film.

Beginning Oct. 04, this rich history of photography will be on display at the Science Museum in London as part of its Illuminating India exhibition to celebrate 70 years of the country’s independence from British rule.

Featuring images from as far back as 1857, the collection highlights the work of Indian photographers through the years, beginning with the very first, Ahmad Ali Khan, to the present day with Vasantha Yogananthan. It also features iconic photographs taken by Europeans like Henri Cartier-Bresson who captured the changing face of India over the years.

Here’s a selection:

Court photographer, Pannalal Parasram Gaur, Maharana Swarup Singh of Udaipur (1815-1861), 1860.
Court photographer, Pannalal Parasram Gaur, Maharana Swarup Singh of Udaipur (1815-1861), 1860.
Image: © Alkazi Foundation for the Arts
Bourne & Shepherd, photographers to the viceroy, Calcutta, DL Udaipur, Mewar, Maharana Fateh Singh of Udaipur (1849-1930), 1876-1900.
Bourne & Shepherd, photographers to the viceroy, Calcutta, DL Udaipur, Mewar, Maharana Fateh Singh of Udaipur (1849-1930), 1876-1900.
Image: © Alkazi Foundation for the Arts
Self-portrait as a Shiva bhakt, 1870.
Self-portrait as a Shiva bhakt, 1870.
Image: © Trustees, Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, City Palace, Jaipur
Court photographer, unknown artist, Maharaja Venkat Raman Singh of Rewa (1876-1918), 1899.
Court photographer, unknown artist, Maharaja Venkat Raman Singh of Rewa (1876-1918), 1899.
Image: © Alkazi Foundation for the Arts
Unknown photographer and artist, Wedding portrait of an Indian couple, 1920-40.
Unknown photographer and artist, Wedding portrait of an Indian couple, 1920-40.
Image: © Alkazi Foundation for the Arts
Homai Vyarawalla, Lord Mountbatten among jubilant crowds outside the Parliament House, Delhi, Aug. 15, 1947.
Homai Vyarawalla, Lord Mountbatten among jubilant crowds outside the Parliament House, Delhi, Aug. 15, 1947.
Image: © Alkazi Foundation for the Arts
Mitch Epstein, Shravanabelagola, Karnataka, India, 1981.
Mitch Epstein, Shravanabelagola, Karnataka, India, 1981.
Image: Courtesy of Galerie Thomas Zander, Köln
Mitch Epstein, Lonavla, Meghraj Cabaret, Bombay, India, 1984.
Mitch Epstein, Lonavla, Meghraj Cabaret, Bombay, India, 1984.
Image: Courtesy of Galerie Thomas Zander, Köln
Lovebird, Ramtek, Maharashtra, India, 2015, from the series A Myth of Two Souls (2013-).
Lovebird, Ramtek, Maharashtra, India, 2015, from the series A Myth of Two Souls (2013-).
Image: © Vasantha Yogananthan
Rama Combing His Hair, Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2015, from the series A Myth of Two Souls (2013-).
Rama Combing His Hair, Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2015, from the series A Myth of Two Souls (2013-).
Image: © Vasantha Yogananthan
Boy Playing Girl, Janakpur, Nepal, 2016, hand painted by Jaykumar Shankar, from A Myth of Two Souls (2013-).
Boy Playing Girl, Janakpur, Nepal, 2016, hand painted by Jaykumar Shankar, from A Myth of Two Souls (2013-).
Image: © Vasantha Yogananthan