Indian studio portraits, 20th century

Perhaps because it was photography that brought me to India last month, I spent a lot of time trolling the markets looking for old studio portraits.  I collect these all over the world but India has an especially rich 20th century (and earlier) tradition of studio photography, among them famous studios like Herzog + Higgins in Mhow and Hormusjee in Bombay.  There is an avid professional trade in portraits of the great and the good — from infancy, the life of nearly every maharaja was well documented by official sittings — but in the markets it is still possible to find portraits of more ordinary citizens that are of no especial material value but are compelling nonetheless.

I found the portrait above in Hauz Khas village in Delhi and it is captioned (in English) “Red Fort Dated 6th October 1948,” presumably referring to the fort in old Delhi.  I can’t read the captions on the two portraits below so, Indian readers, if you have a moment send me an email or leave a comment telling me more about them.

And here, to give a flavor of the enterprise, is a photograph I found online of the Herzog + Higgins studio in Mhow in the late-19th century.


One Response to “Indian studio portraits, 20th century”

  1. Lynore Banchoff says:

    What an exciting idea for a collection. I have old family portraits from the 19th and early 20th century and cherish them. It is interesting to think that strangers can end up with family pictures and they too can become a different kind of inheritance.

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