The Indian Imago. Social history of portrait photography (1880-1980)

Project: Research

Project Details


Photography has been introduced in India by the British colonisers in 1840
and has soon been adopted by the ruling elite and Indian aristocracy. Yet
from the 1880’s onwards, the consumption of portrait photography has
started to get democratised and to reach wider sections of the population.
The project “The Indian Imago” studies the unknown history of the
development of portrait photography with a popular use in South India, from
1880’s under the British Raj, till the 1980’s in Independent India, when the
mechanisation of photographic printing processes completely changed the
practice of photography.
With a methodology combining different types of sources (iconographic, oral
and written) and the use of a new photo archive (STARS), this project is
articulated around two main objectives. On one hand, it aims at studying the
production of portrait photography through its material and visual
dimensions, by analysing the evolution of photographic processes, as well
as the evolution of the conventions of representation (i.e. the mise-enscène).
On the other hand, adopting a social history perspective, it seeks to
unveil the history of portrait consumption in South India, by studying the
processes of its democratisation, and the various uses the consumers
growing in number make of it.
« The Indian Imago » project addresses the question of the reception and
the appropriation of a new technology, emblematic of modernity and with a
high potential for democratisation, in a place ruled by a colonial power, and
which outlived it. The study of photography is crucial since it has completely
shaken the systems of representation around the world, and throughout the
social groups (castes and classes) by introducing new forms of social
recognition, even among Dalits (untouchables).
Short titleThe Indian Imago
Effective start/end date1/10/1830/09/21

Attachment to an Research Institute in UNAMUR

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