Allegory & Illusion: Early Portrait Photography from South Asia (Alkazi Collection of Photography)

by Christopher Pinney (Author), Beth Citron (Author), Rahaab Allana (Author)


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The extraordinary range of photography from South Asia dates back to the official birth of the medium in the mid-19th century. One of the first exhibitions of its kind in North America, Allegory & Illusion’ offers an intimate survey of vintage images from the modern nations of India, Sri Lanka, Burma, and Nepal. Together, they established a unique regional history of photography through both foreign and local practitioners. The photographs, drawn exclusively from the private collection of Mr. E. Alkazi, Chairman, Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, have been curated to explore the linked fields of portraiture, figuration, and inter-visual communication. This volume, produced in conjunction with the exhibition, presents the works of some of the leading photographers and studios of the time, namely Felice Beato, Bourne & Shepherd, Johnston & Hoffmann, Gobind Ram & Oodey Ram, Darogah Abbas Ali, Raja Deen Dayal and Shapur Bhedwar. The three lead essays, together with photographer biographies and techniques, present varied perspectives on photography’s development of a unique vernacular culture. Ethnography, identity, integration, and assimilation are therefore some of the key notions that underlie practices of portraiture and domesticating spacereordering how an image may be perceived in our digital present