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India: Rewind 200 years

August 14, 2007

To mark the 60th anniversary of India's independence, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery ( at Edinburgh is currently holding a display of outstanding early photography from India.

Carefully selected from its extensive archive, these images allow us to share the early experiences of the British in India and to consider how the spread of photography enabled individuals to express their sense of wonder back to those in Britain.

According to John Falconer, guest curator of the display and Head of Visual Materials and Curator of Photographs at The British Library: 'Given the difficulties of working the early photographic processes in a tropical environment, both amateur and commercial photographers in nineteenth-century India produced an astonishingly sophisticated and compelling body of work. The images illustrate the technical and aesthetic confidence with which these pioneers tackled the diverse range of subject matter offered in the subcontinent'.

Photograph: Thousands of bathers at a tank at Kumbakonam by an unknown photographer. Kumbakonam is a temple town about 40 km from Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu; its most famous temple is the Lord Sarangapani Temple. This is probably a shot of the Mahamaham Tank where a special mela takes place every 12 years. Photograph courtesy Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Also read: From 10 Years Ago: Bhai Bhai

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