NGMA displays rare photographs by Kulwant Roy
New Delhi, November 15, 2012
The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) here is displaying of some of the rarest photographs of Mahatma Gandhi, recently discovered and restored at an exhibition titled "Visual Archives of Kulwant Roy".
The exhibition showcases a selection of photographs taken by Kulwant Roy (1914-1984), one of the first free-lance photo-journalists who worked through the pre and post-independence era of Modern India, an era that witnessed many nationalist upsurges that shaped the political, constitutional, and economic future of the country.
The exhibition was inaugurated yesterday by Union Minister of Culture Chandresh Kumari Katoch. Culture Secretary Sangita Gairola was the guest of honour on the occasion.
The exhabition has been curated by Aditya Arya, who has played a pivotal role in the formation of the India Photo Archive Foundation, of which he is a trustee, an official press release said.
Starting from 1930s to the 1960s, Roy's work followed mainstream national history. It comprised pictures of political meetings, iconic portraits and glimpses of the lives of freedom fighters and leaders of India, which are of historic significance.
Besides this, his works contain images of daily life and the effects of nation building from the time of independence.
Born in Baglikalan in Ludhiana, Punjab, Roy’s career started in the twenties. His earliest work of extreme importance was documenting the meeting of Mahatma Gandhi and Frontier Gandhi or Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) in 1938.
Later, working at the Royal Indian Air Force he tested his skills taking aerial shots from the cockpit. His patriotism got the better of him and he found it difficult to tolerate the discrimination at the hands of his British superiors and was court-martialled.
Moving to Delhi around the time of partition, he witnessed and captured many of the events which shaped India’s Independence like Simla Cabinet Mission in 1945. Having followed the freedom movement closely his work captures the spirit and energy of it along with the hopes and aspirations of people at the time.
Even after a decade of freedom, Roy still restless left for a world tour in 1958. He carried with him photographs from all around India, which were published in newspapers and magazines abroad. Prominent among these were pictures of people on the Amarnath Yatra in the snow-capped mountains of Kashmir. He took pictures of the countries( around forty) he visited .
In 1963 he mailed all his photographs and negatives to his address in Delhi, but realized on his return that they were lost.
NGMA Director Rajiv Lochan said the exhibition represents only a small fragment of a much larger collection of photo material, some part of which was lost or destroyed by the ravages of time. Many rare negatives, though, have been recovered through a long and painstaking process, and some of them are being displayed and exhibited for the first time.
The exhibition attempts to highlight and showcase the brilliance and originality of Roy’s archival visuals, backed by textual references and annotations wherever present on the original envelopes, as well as other relevant accompanying information
On display are more than 200 digital reproductions and over a 100 original silver bromide prints. Some large reproductions of rare negatives from 1938 of Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to NWFP where he met Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan are also present.