This is a photograph. Portraits from Indian studios
from September 14, 2023 to January 15, 2024
Introduced by the British in 1840, photography became well established in India. Studios opened first in major cities such as Madras, Calcutta and Bombay, before being set up in smaller towns in the 1880s. Many offered retouching and colourisation services. Painted photography, which took a wide variety of forms and uses in India, continued throughout the 20th century, especially for memorial portraits designed to preserve the memory of loved ones.
Initially reserved for the Indian and British elite, portraits were adopted with great enthusiasm by princely families in the 19th century. Over the course of the 20th century, it became the most popular photographic genre in India, gradually becoming accessible to people from more modest backgrounds wishing to portray themselves and their loved ones.
As part of its focus on local and vernacular photographic practices, the musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac has acquired a number of portraits produced by Indian studios for local customers, including a major group of painted portraits from studios based in Tamil Nadu in southern India. Reflecting a wide variety of styles and budgets, these skilfully composed and constructed portraits are sometimes enhanced by bright and opaque colours, sometimes covered in shades of grey or brown.
Bearing witness to extensive local production, rarely seen in European museum collections, these portraits are also key elements in the social and cultural history of photography in this region.
- Curator : Annabelle Lacour, Head of Photographs Collections .