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Visual Culture in the Subcontinent
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ARTICLE | “Zenana Studio: Early Women Photographers of Bengal”

ARTICLE | “Zenana Studio: Early Women Photographers of Bengal” | Indian Photographies | Scoop.it

Siddhartha Ghosh’s Chobi Tola: Bangalir Photography-Chorcha (Taking Pictures: The Practice of Photography by Bengalis) is a pioneering work that came out in 1988 to critical acclaim and describes the history of photography in Bengal from its inception during the colonial period. The work has an important section on early women photographers in India that will interest lay readers and social scientists alike, not only because it unearths, through meticulous research, a number of early photographers whose contributions would otherwise have been forgotten by posterity, but also for exposing the ways in which colonial modernity touched and shaped women’s lives in ways we do not normally think about.

Photography was a capital-intensive pursuit and usually a pastime of only those who could afford it. But Ghosh’s book draws attention to the ways in which a photographic studio, along with other institutions, such as railways and English schools, became an important feature of colonized Bengali lives. Photographs were the clearest images of the interface between the two cultures: the colonized subject’s resistance and mimicry of Western sartorial and cultural norms was most evident in the early photos of Indian men and women. But the photographs also constructed social and family histories in ways inconceivable even a few decades earlier. Professional and commercial photography was available in Calcutta from the 1840s onward and widely used as a tool in the British colonial government to document, classify and record events, landscapes and people., The advent of women as photographers adds to our understanding of this fascinating history of the Empire’s visual outcomes.

Siddhartha Ghosh (1948-2002) was a mechanical engineer by education and a translator, writer and social scientist by inclination. His many works include the seminal study of nineteenth century British technology and its impact on colonized Bengalis, Koler Shohor Kolkata, (1991), seven books popularizing science for children and one work of science fiction.

 Translated by Debjani Sengupta | TAP

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Exhibition in London | Raqs Media Collective : An Afternoon Unregistered on the Richter Scale (2011)

Exhibition in London | Raqs Media Collective : An Afternoon Unregistered on the Richter Scale (2011) | Indian Photographies | Scoop.it

"Raqs Media Collective are three Delhi-based artists - Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta - whose practices include photography, new media, film, media theory and research, criticism and curation.

An Afternoon Unregistered on the Richter Scale (2011) is a silent looped video projection of an archival photograph, subtly altered by the artists to create a dream-like mise-en-scène. The original photograph, taken by James Waterhouse, depicts a room full of surveyors in colonial Calcutta in 1911, and is titled Examining Room of the Duffing Section of the Photographic Department of the Survey of India.

The Collective hope this intervention can ‘conjure a constellation of stars onto a drawing board, induce tremors too gentle to disturb the Richter scale, reveal a dreamed up desert, make time wind backwards, stain the afternoon with indigo and introduce a rustle and a hesitation in the determined stillness of the surveyors hard at work at mapping empire’."

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Exhibition in Berlin | The Colonial Eye : Early Portrait Photography in India

Exhibition in Berlin | The Colonial Eye : Early Portrait Photography in India | Indian Photographies | Scoop.it

"One of the world's most comprehensive and significant collections of portrait photography from India is on exhibit for the first time. The collection was originally thought to be lost during World War II, only gradually returning to Berlin's National Museums beginning in the 1990s.
Now, around 300 photographs from the second half of the nineteenth century offer a comprehensive overview of portrait photography from the Indian subcontinent. In addition to pictures by renowned photographers and studios such as Samuel Bourne, Sheperd & Robertson, A.T.W. Penn, and John Burke, works by lesser known artists are also on display. Popular and unexpectedly diverse ethnographic photography of the time stands in contrast to stylised street shots of artisans, as well as portraits of nobility, including Islamic princes and princesses, Maharajas, and clan leaders, taken in their own palaces or in artfully set studio scenes.

One unifying aspect of many early portraits is a particularly European view - "The Colonial Eye". In the second half of the nineteenth century, in the name of science and colonialism, the land and its inhabitants were to be apprehended through observation and cataloguing, analysation and measurement. The fascination with India was especially evoked by the strange-looking indigenous peoples and the caste-system, as well as the splendour of the Indian nobility and the austere life of ascetics."

 

Photograph : Bourne & Shepherd (?), Andamanen-Insulaner, um 1880, Albuminabzug

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