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Reflecting on a lost India

Mar 5, 2013, DHNS : 22:52 IST

In pictures

focus : Interior of Jodhpur Fort

Here’s a rare opportunity to see the twilight of a pre-modernised India – its people, architecture and landscapes – through a British photographer’s eye.

Italian jewellery designer Damiani and photography group Tasveer are showcasing Evening Ragas - an exhibition of photographs by British lensman Derry Mo­o­re. The exhibition is on at Gallery Art Motif, Lado Sarai.

Derry Moore, the 12th Earl of Drogheda, made his name photographing interiors and portraits of the European aristocracy, including those of Queen Elizabeth II and the late Queen Mother. Following his education at Eton, he studied painting at Oskar Kokoschka’s school in Salz­b­urg, Austria, and later took up lessons under Bill Brandt.
This exhibition showcases over 60 limited edition signed prints from a project Moore began in India in 1976, which he continues to work on even day. The photographs are a combination of interiors and landscapes that poignantly document what may be the last relics of a pre-modern­i­s­ed India. The exh­i­bit also showcases some commissi­o­n­ed high society portraits, especially women, that Moore took on his trips to India.

Derry says, “Architecture as a subject always fascinated me. Back in 1976, a lady visiting London advised me that I should capture the beauty of Indian forts. That is when I first came to India and was mesmerised. India not only had the most fascinating buildings but European influences brought about by Britishers were also clearly visible – higher rooms, larger windows, lavish corridors. The porticoes of some humble houses may have been snatched from the front of the British Museum!”

“Even people fascinated me. I had been expecting folkloric looks, where as what I found was far more interesting – the look and atmosphere of another century - Britain. The uniqueness, the charm of that era cannot be described.” Derry has shot royalties – in traditional costumes but sporting Western accessories, forts – made in good old Indian design but flaunting a vintage car in the frontyard, museums and ruins of British residencies. Then there are landscapes of Rajasthan and portraits of renowned artistes like MS Subbulaksmi, authors Anita Desai and filmmaker Satyajit Ray, as well as politicians like Indira Gandhi.

He says, “A lot of India has changed since the70s. Buildings, and people, have lost their individuality. It has become a mad race to beco­me international. There is little exclusivity of culture left.” That is why, I find it difficult to find a photographic subject in India these days. Nothing really catches my attention. It is like a vast sea, but void of fishes.”

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