Indian Painted Photographs (1860s to the present)

Bhadariji Devarajaji, by Ghasiram Hardev Sharma (1868 –1930), New Haveli, Nathdwara, Rajasthan, India, c. 1890s, Opaque watercolour, silver, and gold on albumen print, 2010.42.6. This acquisition was made possible with generous support from the South Asia Research and Acquisition Fund.

This project examines an important genre of South Asian photography that is distinct in the history of the medium and that has not yet been adequately studied. While other regions in the world applied paint to the photographic image, none did it with such frequency nor continued as long after the advent of colour photography. This points to another conception of the photographic image, one not based only on the photograph’s connection with “reality”, suggesting a need to rewrite photo history more broadly. This project focuses on artifacts recently acquired into the ROM’s collection, on which extended visual and material analysis was conducted (using microscope, xray, UV, and infrared) supplemented by a comparative analysis of painted photographs in other collections. This project was conducted with the assistance of photography conservator Olga Zotova. It has resulted in a ROM exhibit (June 2011-June 2012) and a catalogue of ROM’s collection (in press).

Part of this project was an analysis of one manifestation of painted photography in India in the form of Bollywood, the “showcard,” which consisted of photographic film stills collaged and hand-painted on board. Research consisted of extended examination of The Hartwick Collection of Bollywood showcards, interviews with scholars and dealers in India, and consultation with secondary sources. This project benefited from the contribution of art history graduate student Alexandra McCarter. It has resulted in a ROM ICC exhibit (2011) and a catalogue (2011).

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Authored by: Deepali Dewan

Authored by: Deepali Dewan