As India’s cities have transformed into chaotic, ungainly urban sprawls, scores of its heritage buildings have been torn down to make way for the new.
Last year, marked the loss of Bengaluru’s 100-year-old Krumbiegel Hall, while, in Kolkata, numerous old homes have disappeared, with modern, glass-and-steel structures taking their place. Across the country, many of the historic structures that do remain standing are in a terrible state, neglected by local authorities despite the pleas and protests of activists and conservation organisations.
It’s a situation that British photographer Derry Moore anticipated when he first came to India in the 1970s. Over the next two decades, during his travels to cities such as Calcutta (now Kolkata), Lucknow, Bombay (now Mumbai) and Hyderabad, Moore tried to photograph the colonial-era buildings whose days, he already knew, were numbered.
Beginning on Jan. 20, the gallery Tasveer, in partnership with the digital art platform Dauble, will be exhibiting 28 of Moore’s photographs of India in Bengaluru. In these stunning black and white images, which have also been published in a book titled In the Shadow of the Raj, Moore captures the country’s rich history, highlighting what he calls a “cultural osmosis” between India and the British Empire. It was this cultural osmosis that contributed to the creation of unique architecture and interiors, much of which is sadly at risk of disappearing for good today.
“The tragedy, as the photographs of the buildings and interiors in this book show, is that India has magnificent traditions of fine architecture and design, but so little of those traditions have passed into modern Indian architecture,” the veteran journalist Mark Tully writes in the foreword to the book. “What is even sadder is that modern India has shown so little respect for its former architectural achievements.”
“Inflated land prices are a feature of globalisation everywhere. In India, this has led to the profit that can be made from a piece of land taking precedence over the historical or architectural merit of the building standing on it,” he adds.
Here’s a selection of Moore’s nostalgic images of India: