Homai Vyarawala’s photographs of pre and post-independent India have contributed to a certain nationalist iconography. Homai’s work has spanned four decades that include both the euphoria of independence as well as the disillusionment with undelivered promises in the new nation state. Homai was a woman who was active in the public arena and in politics without actually being part of it. This book presents along with her photographs, Homai’s critical insights as a bystander who watched these changes in the country. Her comments on the events add significantly to the historical value of her photography.
The greatest contribution of Homai Vyarawala is that she was the only professional woman photojournalist between, 1939-1970. Her survival in a male dominated field is all the more significant because of the codes of this profession that continue to exclude most women even today. The Second World War was the backdrop for some of her earliest pictures that documented the efforts of women to provide utility services. These along with others were published as photo-stories in the Illustrated Weekly of India, Time Life, The Black Star, Paul Popper and numerous other international publications. Some of the most momentous political events in India were captured by her camera in Delhi during 1941-1970, The unique image of the Dalai Lama crossing over into Indian territory in 1959 captured by her lens and illustrated in this book are of immense historical significance. Many photographs which have recorded world history are available in the book.
The book also includes a study of Homai’s innovative techniques and skills as the first professional woman photojournalist. It views her work as a dialogue between herself and the moments she captured for posterity. It brings out her sense of creative dynamism and covers valuable social histories through the lens of a person who lived out many of the situations herself.
The book was released at Lalit Kala Akademi in New Delhi on the 25th of February along with an exhibition of many of Homai’s photographs. It is now available for purchase.