India, a hundred years ago

Tasveer Art Gallery brings some of the finest photographs of the 19th century as well as a selection of rare prints sourced from Kolkata’s iconic Bourne & Shepherd studio that give life to history at Dr Bhau Daji Lad City Museum

On a wall, two very important cities of the world were beside each other. In one, a few men are walking on vast roads with black umbrellas covering their head and a little away from them horses and cattle draw vehicles, each visibly not threatened by the other. In the other city, there is a bit more traffic, also drawn by horses and, possibly, a pavement with more people. This more, however, is what we would now call few as a century has passed. And the two places, Esplanade in then Bombay and Clive Row in then Calcutta have acquired a different look and pace.

Organisers give finishing touches to few vintage photographs of Asia from the 19th century at Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum. Pics/Tushar Satam
Organisers give finishing touches to few vintage photographs of Asia from the 19th century at Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum. Pics/Tushar Satam

Past perfect
A glimpse of this past of the spaces we walk on and many more such moments frozen in time have been brought to Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum by The Tasveer Art Galley, as a part of its 10th anniversary. The 19th century vintage photographs include a range of landscapes, architectural views and portraits by the photographers Samuel Bourne, Charles Shepherd and the Bourne & Shepherd studio in Calcutta. This studio, established in 1863, is the oldest photographic studio still in operation.

Sunando Chakraborty, deputy director, Tasveer Art Gallery, informs that many of these images are already popular as they are some of the best photographs of the 19th century. He, however, added that the importance of this exhibition is the juxtaposition of vintage photographs with select modern reprints.

“The photos were way smaller in size and thus much character of the images were lost to the eye,” he said, and directed us to the hall with original prints, which were usually between 9 to 12 inches in both dimensions. The photos in the exhibition are as big as 29*36 inches.

One particularly striking image was of a few men in Afghanistan with what looked like muskets in either a state of combat or guarding a fort. This image, Chakraborty pointed out, had a wide white space after it was enlarged. But the coloured portion takes care of the action in it and makes us ponder about unread stories of lands we have not been to.

Chakraborty said the photos were collected for MAP (Museum of Art and Photography), Bangalore, over a period of time. “Tasveer and MAP have the same management and we collaborate to make such initiatives possible. The photos that have been put up are possibly the strongest we have now but there are many more,” he added.

He was hopeful that the exhibition would interest people in the city, as the photographs are easy to relate to and give goose bumps, perhaps.

Till: September 15, 10 am to 5.30 pm
At: Dr Bhau Daji Lad City Museum, 91 A, Veer Mata Jijabai Bhonsle Udyan, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Marg, Byculla (E).
Call: 23731234

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