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We are delighted to announce that the exhibition is extended until the 31st of August 2018!
The exhibition is open from Monday to Friday 8am-7pm.
“Portrait Dravida: A Century of Studio Photography”
organized for the 25th ECSAS Conference (European Association for South Asian Studies) will be held from 5 to 30 July 2018 at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, at 54 boulevard Raspail 75006 Paris.
The entrance is free.
“Portrait Dravida” shows for the first time in France the photographic production of popular photo studios in South India.
In this region of the world for over a century, the photo studio remained the only means of access to photography for the vast majority of the Indian population of all castes and origins. One would come alone, as a couple, as a family and, a little later, as a group of friends to get a portrait taken. If it was “too late”, the photographer would be called to the home to immortalize a recently deceased member of the family. The photo studio was the temple of portraiture where imagined ideals and rough social realities coexisted on the negatives. The challenge of the S.T.A.R.S. project is to consider, for the first time, these photographic portraits of commercial photo studios as object of study and object of art.
The exhibition was realized thanks to the support of ECSAS, the CEIAS (Center of Study of India and South Asia, CNRS-EHESS) and the EHESS.
Zoe Headley, CEIAS-CNRS
Kasha E. Vande, ARCH M, Trustee, PondyART Foundation
BBC report by By Pramila Krishnan
There was a time an event would not begin without a photographer. “I remember the days when event organisers would even delay a show if the photographer was running late,” says Balachandra Raju, a 78-year-old third-generation photographer of Sathyam studio, a still surviving photo studio in India’s southern city of Chennai (formerly Madras).
“Now, all you need is a phone that fits in the palm of your hand to take a photo.”
Photo studios are on the verge of extinction in the digital era. But as they struggle to keep theirs shutters open, one research project is looking at ways to preserve their legacy by digitising archival images.
Nalla Pillai Studio is the longest running studio identified so far in the S.T.A.R.S project. As with the vast majority of photo studios in Tamil Nadu, the business has been handed over from father to son since the opening of the studio. Nalla Pillai Studio opened its doors in the dusty temple city of Kumbakonam 1878 and his still be run by the great-grandsons of the founder.
The remains of Nalla Pillai studio’s 140 years of photographic production are a collection damaged glass-plates which were found poorly stored in a torn cardboard box full of grit and dust. These glass-plates yield a testimony of Kumbakonam’s vibrant religious activities and the numerous sadhus who would flock here for the yearly temple festivals as well as the famous Mahamam festival, where all sins are washed away following a ritual bathing which occurs every 12 years.
Nalla Pillai Studio is now a forlorn digital photo studio at the back of an alley where the few customers who drop by required the cheapest rate for instant passport photos.
S.T.A.R.S. digitized 152 glass-plates, 32 prints and 7 celluloid negatives from Nalla Pillai Studio.