‘Under Indian Skies’ is the book behind the forthcoming exhibition of the same name, which opens at The David Collection on 23 November 2018. The book — and the exhibition — offer a previously unknown, first-hand impression of 19th-century India, as seen through the eyes of primarily Western photographers.
At the beginning of the 1850s photography made its breakthrough in colonial India. With its impressive architecture, exotic landscapes and many different ethnic groups and cultures, the country offered fantastic motifs. The Indian architecture with its magnificent Islamic palaces and mausolea. Princes, maharajas, ministers and soldiers in all of their splendour. But also ordinary people and daily life: stone-cutters and woodcarvers, carpenters and dyers, daily life with the elephants that bathe in the Ganges, cotton harvesters and gardeners, acrobats, snake charmers, dancers, musicians and religious processions.
“Under Indian Skies” presents a riveting, kaleidoscopic picture of an India that for the most part has disappeared today. Some monuments are still standing and one might still see similar scenes there, but the present infrastructure and political circumstances are completely different to that time. In addition to the presentation of eighty-three selected photographs, the book contains two essays, on the history of photography in India and early photographic processes respectively.
John Falconer is a British historian of photography, who for many years was responsible for the photography collection at the British Library’s Indian and Oriental departments. He has written many books on early Indian photography and is one of the world’s leading specialists in this area.