History via images

ByProma Chakraborty

Oct 18, 2019

Writer William Dalrymple is showcasing his talent of recording stories in the lens of his camera in a stunning exhibition of black and white images

We are all familiar with the writings of historian William Dalrymple, but few are aware that photography was his first love, an artistic outlet in his youthful days.

The purchase of a Samsung Edge camera phone in recent years led to his re-discovery of the medium. After his much-celebrated debut show in 2016 titled the ‘Writer’s Eye’, renowned author William Dalrymple has returned to the lens.

Put together in a stunning exhibition of black-and-white photographs, ‘Historian’s Eye’, chronicles people and places, and the inter-relationships among them.

Born in Scotland in 1965, Dalrymple is a Scottish historian and writer, art historian and curator, as well as a prominent broadcaster and critic.

While researching his latest book — The Anarchy, published in September 2019, Dalrymple travelled across the country over the last two years. This exhibition presents a photographic record of his travels. It features a unique set of images of the places where art and history were being made in the 18th and 19th centuries and includes a small selection of photographs from modern-day Pakistan.

Dalrymple’s approach to photography facilitated by the mobility and immediacy of a camera phone is intuitive and instinctive. The black and white photography has a touch of nostalgia and blurs the line between history and reality.

Photographs are intrinsically bound to place and time, but Dalrymple’s images create a wrinkle in time that highlight an intermingling of the monumental past and fleeting present. Each photograph reveals a narrative tension within itself, between stillness and movement, history and reality.

“A boy skips down the passage, a cyclist turns at the gate, a hawk circles the dome and three generations of a Kalash family come together in a single frame: the past by turn is present, unveiled, subverted and transformed in the contemporary moment through the historian’s lens,” reads the note of the exhibition.

The exhibition is on display at Vadehra Art Gallery till October 31