Ethnographic Photography

Whose land is it anyway?

We examine the themes presented in Saju Kunhan’s work as they are represented in our collection of rare 19th-century portraits, war photography, engravings, contemporary art and Warli painting

Where do we go from here?

Faced with the ravages of the global pandemic, we’re all seeking comfort, beauty and a way to strengthen that inner light no storm can disturb. ‘Shifting Selves’ offers the balm of art and history as it documents this journey inward

Mahars

This photograph, captioned ‘Mahars,’ was captured by William Johnson. The Mahar caste traditionally belonged to the lowest caste in the Hindu caste system in the Bombay presidency. This image initially formed a part of William Johnson’s ‘Photographs of Western India’ (1855-1862) and reappeared in his later publication ‘The Oriental Races and Tribes, Residents and Visitors… Read more »

Karnatika Brahmans

This photograph was captured by William Johnson and is captioned ‘Karnatika Brahmins’. Karnataka Brahmins belonged to Belgaum, Dharwar, and other Northern Karnataka region of the Bombay Presidency. This image initially formed a part of William Johnson’s ‘Photographs of Western India’ (1855-1862) and reappeared in his later publication ‘The Oriental Races and Tribes, Residents and Visitors… Read more »

Fisherwomen of Bombay

This photograph was captured by William Johnson and is captioned ‘Fisherwomen of Bombay’. The Kolis are considered to be the oldest inhabitants of the Bombay island. Today, traces of their original dwellings are found as hamlets, ‘gaontans’, colonies and ‘wadas’ around Mahim, Sion, Worli, Colaba, etc. This image initially formed a part of William Johnson’s… Read more »

Cotton Merchants, Bombay

Following the Uprising of 1857, the British started to use photography to gather data on races, castes and communities to better understand the ethnic diversity of the subcontinent. This photograph is from ‘The Photographs of Western India’ (Vol.1), 1855-1852, one of the earliest photographic compendiums to be produced on ethnographic portraiture, taken by William Johnson… Read more »

Todas, Indigenous Tribe from Nilgiri Hills

This is an ethnographic photograph from the People of India album. It shows the Toda tribe of the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu. They were traditionally pastoralists who used shoals (Nilgiri copses) as building materials, shade and centres for ritual activities. The original People of India albums were issued in 1868. They were initially conceived as… Read more »

Udasees from the Sutlej

This photograph from the 1860 book, ‘People of India’ is captioned ‘Udasees from Sutlej.’ It carries the sign of the photo studio Shepherd & Robertson, which later became the long-running Bourne & Shepherd studio in Kolkata. Udasis are ascetics who follow the teachings of Srichand, son of Guru Nanak. These monks wear matted locks and… Read more »