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Get on the time machine

On the occasion of World Photography Day, here’s an exhibition of vintage cameras and rare photographs

Back in 1901, Maharaja Dev Shamsher Rana was the Prime Minister of Nepal for just 144 days and was sent to exile in India by his brother. More than a century later in 2012, his great-great-granddaughter Isha Singh Sahney got her hands on hundreds of photographs, notes, letters as her mother attempted to clean the 150-year-old house where her grandparents lived. An exhibition of these photographs and several vintage cameras is India Photo Archive Foundation’s way of celebrating World Photography Day (August 19) at India Habitat Centre.

“Our story begins, as most archival stories do, in an attic, where hundreds of photographs were about to be burned,” says Isha. To clear their family’s palatial home in Mussoorie, Fairlawn Castle, her grandparents almost destroyed all photographs dating back to the 19th century. However, they survived and went back into the trunks. After her grandparents passed away, Isha’s mother took another attempt to clean up and this time they sat and scanned through all letters, accounts, travel records, dowry lists and photographs. In 2014, Isha got in touch with Aditya Arya, an archivist and founder of India Photo Archive Foundation to archive and digitise these photographs and created the Bhuvan Kumari Devi Archives.

Titled ‘Nirvasanama’ which means exile in Nepali, the exhibition will provide a rare glimpse of the journey and life of Dev Shamsher Rana. Calling it more of an anthropological study, Isha hopes the photographs will display the costume, jewellery, customs of people dating back to 19th century till mid-20th century. These never seen before photos have little notes scribbled on them which portrays how people communicated back then. It is further supplemented by the cameras which shot them. A special period studio is constructed to recreate the backgrounds in which photos were captured earlier and transport the guests to the early 20’s and 30’s studios.

Not only photographs, the exhibition will also include 150 vintage cameras from the collection of Aditya Arya who has been collecting antique cameras since the past 40 years. A celebrated Indian photographer and visual historian, Aditya has a personal collection of over 2,000 cameras from 1850 onwards. These are displayed in The Museo Camera, a museum that houses such rare cameras tracing the evolution of technology.

Drop in to experience a unique chance of time travel starting from 19th to 24th August and enjoy the celebration of photography through camera and the archives.