William Johnson

Traders (Marwarree Brokers), Bombay

This photograph of traders from the Marwari community was taken by William Johnson in late 19th century Bombay. The port city of Bombay attracted early photographers, and the first official Indian photography organisation was founded here in 1854. William was a founding member of the Bombay Photographic Society and one of the first to produce… Read more »

Parsee (Parsi) Ladies, Bombay

This photograph of the women from the Parsi community was taken by William Johnson in late 19th century. With the British granting freedom of religion and equality before the law to migrants and minority communities, the city saw an influx of Parsis, who went on to play a pivotal role in the making of metropolitan… Read more »

Palanquin Bearers, Bombay

This photograph of the Palanquin Bearers was taken by William Johnson in Bombay. The root-word for the English ‘palanquin’ is the same as the one for the Hindi ‘palang’: ‘palyanka’, Sanskrit for bed. Baked into the word itself is a promise of comfort. Palanquins were the transport of choice for wealthy travellers in 18th- and… Read more »

reimagine I

‘reimagine’ is an ongoing Instagram-exclusive series through which we make connections across the Sarmaya collection and examine the extent to which our ways of seeing — and an object’s own meaning — are informed by time, space, and context

Mahars

This photograph of the Mahar community is by William Johnson. The Mahars traditionally belonged to the lowest caste in the Hindu caste system in the Bombay presidency. This image originally formed a part of a series called ‘Photographs of Western India’ (1855-1862) by William Johnson. It reappeared in his later publication ‘The Oriental Races and… Read more »

Karnatika Brahmans

This photograph of the Karnatika Brahmins was taken by William Johnson. This image originally formed a part of a series called ‘Photographs of Western India’ (1855-1862) by William Johnson. It reappeared in his later publication ‘The Oriental Races and Tribes, Residents and Visitors of Bombay’ (1863 and 1866). The series gives a glimpse into the… Read more »

Fisherwomen of Bombay

This photograph of the Fisherwomen of Bombay is by William Johnson.  The Kolis (fishing community) are oldest known inhabitants of the seven islands that make up this city, they have lived here for centuries—some say since 600 BCE. This community may not be as visible on the city’s bustling streets as they once were, but… Read more »