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On Instagram, incredible images from India’s black and white era

Maria Thomas
By Maria Thomas

Writer at Quartz India

Long before Instagram filters added a vintage touch to modern Indian life, real sepia-toned photographs were the norm.

In the 1850s, photography spread widely throughout the country, with the launch of a number of photographic societies, as well as studios in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai that did brisk business.

With time, many of these black and white photographs lay forgotten in family archives. But the Indian Memory Project, founded in 2010 by Mumbai-based photographer and curator Anusha Yadav, is bringing them back to life.

“The basic idea was that if you put several pictures together, you can trace the history of a country, or of the world,” Yadav, a graduate of Ahmedabad’s National Institute of Design, told Quartz. “In my case, I just chose to trace the history of the country through personal stories and photographs.”

The result is a delightful and growing collection of old treasures, featuring everything from family portraits to pictures of beauty queens, wrestling champions and more.

For the past week, Yadav took over the Instagram feed of the New Yorker magazine’s photo department, posting a number of beautiful photographs, along with the stories of the people pictured.

“I have chosen simple stories, but those which have a powerful impact,” Yadav explained, adding that it was important to select photographs with descriptions that would resonate even among those with little or no connection to India’s history.

And the response, according to Yadav, has been “fantastic.”

Here are some of the photographs that were featured.