A century captured through the lens

Visual history

An aerial view of the Safdarjung Tomb shot in 1972 compels you to take a closer look at the image which also gives a peek into the city as it was back then. Similarly, a photograph of houseboats on river Jhelum captured in 1932 is bound to catch the viewer’s eye for its sheer beauty and serenity.  These, along with many other images, comprise of ‘Picturing a Century’, a photographic show currently on display in the capital.

Presenting a ‘visual tour of the history of photography in India’ the exhibition by Mahatta and Co. showcases 180 images shot and 120 cameras used over the century (1915-2015). Opened for viewers on the occasion of World Photography Day (August 19), the show also marks the iconic photo studio’s century-old existence.

“We have been working on it for around three-and-a-half years. It was a major job to make the final choice out of around three lakh images – which is just a tip of the iceberg. This is only about 10 per cent of our archive,” Pavan Mehta of the studio tells Metrolife.

First set up in Srinagar by AN Mehta in 1915, the photo studio, which presently houses in central Delhi’s Connaught Place, was established here in 1947. The first colour prints from negatives done in India were printed at the Mahatta Lab in 1954, and they also introduced digital imaging through film recorders in 1986.

“The main idea is to show how things have changed over the years; how people faced the camera then and now,” he says.The show has on display images across a various genres from architectural and wedding photography to industrial and hunting photography. With an interesting and intriguing collection of images, the show also features portraits of Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur and Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj, along with architectural images of famous city monuments which show how over time the styles of buildings have changed. Also put up is an image of actor Raj Kapoor playing a dholki at a wedding sangeet ceremony in 1974.

Another interesting section at the exhibition is the old photo studio which has been set up, giving viewers a chance to get clicked like it was done earlier.

“This is just to educate people about the equipments used back in those days. This is to inform them about the lights, the simple furniture and props like the flower vase which were used then,” Mehta said.

On the occasion, a book of rare images was also launched by parliamentarian Dr Karan Singh who described it as “archival”. With a brimming smile, he opened a page and showed a black and white picture of himself as a young child in his mother’s arms, saying he must have been the most photographed person, “as my first image was clicked even before I turned one.”

Picturing a Century is on till 8 September at the Twin Art Gallery, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), Janpath.

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