History in Sepia

It is nothing short of a privilege to view any portion of the the legendary Alkazi collection of photography... about 100 000 photographs of India from the beginnings of photography on the subcontinent.

The Alkazi Foundation, housed in New Delhi, (but with centres in London and New York) has been very generous in sharing some of their holdings with the public- their marvellous Lucknow: Splendour and Decline exhibition in early 2007 allowed us to see some superb images of the city dating from the 1870's.

Publications of the Foundation include
Lucknow: City of Illusion, Vijayanagara, The Marshall Albums, The Waterhouse Albums, and most recently, Painted Photographs: Coloured Portraiture in India. Many of these titles are copublished with Mapin, Ahmedabad.

Vijayanagara: Splendour in Ruins, is based in part on the photographs taken by " the remarkably accomplished Alexander Greenlaw [...]. Vijayanagara in South India in 1855, is known principally through his monumental paper negatives of this great imperial Hindu city. Greenlaw, an army officer, explored the vast site, capturing the temples, shrines, palaces and pleasure pavilions with his camera, as well as recording the dramatic landscape that surrounds the ruins of this once majestic capital.

While Greenlaw’s response to the architecture within its spectacular natural setting is the principal focus of this book, the work of subsequent photographers at the site is also explored. Presenting the work of William Pigou, Edmond David Lyon, Nicholas & Co. and others, the role of photography in documenting and preserving the site is examined through a comparative approach that seeks to present a comprehensive overview of commercial, archaeological and other documentary activities at Vijayanagara in the 19th century. The book [...] the extraordinary achievement of this small group of talented individuals through a stimulating combination of text and images, which together offer a fresh vision of this inspiring city."
The Marshal Albums: Photography and Archaeology has been edited by Sudeshna Guha, with contributions from Michael Dodson, Tapati Guha-Thakurta, Robert Harding and Christopher Pinney.

"Drawing on the photographic albums in the personal collection of Sir John Marshall, Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India from 1902 to 1908, this volume is a study exploring multiple perceptions of Indian history and related scholarship produced through archaeological field work during the colonial period. While maintaining focus on Marshall’s contributions to South Asian archaeology, the themes of the essays include the rise of archaeology as an authoritative element for historical scholarship during the 18th and 19th centuries, the preservation of monuments and historical landscapes, and the complex relationships between photography and archaeology.

The book highlights major sites such as Sanchi, Sarnath, Mohenjodaro and Taxila—often referred to as Marshall’s archaeological triumphs."

 The Marshall Albums, in hardcover, 288pages, 119 sepia photographs, 10 drawings and a map, Rs 3500. ISBN: 9788189995324.

Vijayanagara, 247 pages, in hardcover, Rs 2850. ISBN: 9780944142769