It took Abhishek Poddar, founder of Tasveer, two years to put together a collection of early 19th century photographs of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, as well as other places in the country, by various Western photographers. The collection is now a touring exhibition titled One Hundred Vintage Views of India.
It’s on show in Bangalore till 28 August, with the photographs on sale priced upwards of Rs20,000. The exhibition will then travel to Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai.
The touring exhibition of rare early prints is a collection that Poddar sourced from the archives of Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books, specialists in antiquarian books, maps and vintage photographs. “The inception of the idea happened two years ago, but putting it together wasn’t quite as simple,” says Poddar, adding that the project is very special to him. “Working on this exhibition took me to a new world of photography that existed so early in time. As an organization that works with mostly contemporary photographs, looking at the compositions, tones and moods in these images took me to an exciting place in history” he says.
The primary challenge was the condition of the prints. Poddar points out that both wear and tear and tonality determine the pricing. “Dark rich tones are generally desirable for albumen prints. Nearly all of these photographs are albumen prints, a process most commonly used in the latter part of the 19th century” he says. The images, most of them in natural sepia tones, were taken by amateur and semi-professional photographers between the late 1840s and the 1870s. Picked out by Poddar and team for their composition and mood, the images were dated with the help of experts who faced the challenge of distinguishing between the early prints and the more recent reproductions made by taking reprints from a negative. But though an earlier print is considered more valuable, it was sometimes found that an image taken at a later date or a newer print possessed better aesthetic composition. “ While a print of an earlier date is valuable, we noticed that some of these photographers over time sharpened their eye for a better image. So their later photographs have better composition quality,” says Poddar, advising buyers of vintage photographs to develop a personal eye rather than picking according to a rule book.
The exhibition is on till 28 August at the Tasveer Art Gallery, Sua House, 26/1, Kasturba Cross Road, Bangalore.