The STARS Archive is a multi-site physical and digital repository of the productions of commercial studio photography between 1880 and 1980.


The Archive, in-the-making, is intended for research purpose.

It consists of photographic material (negatives and prints) which have been sourced from a variety of contributors:

Studio collections– digital copies of original negatives and prints held by owners of studios

Private collections-digital copies of original negatives and prints  held by individuals who have come forward to contribute to the archive

Shop collections-digital copies of original negatives and prints held in antique shops and second-hand stores.

STARS collection-digital copies of original negatives and prints  either collected by team members or gifted to the project.



The STARS collective is building up a collection of physical prints and negatives of Tamil Studio photography.

Our main sources for this archive are discarded family portraits found in secondhand shops in Tamil Nadu as well as spontaneous donations from private owners and collectors.

Presently, the STARS Physical Archive comprises over 5 000 prints and several hundred negatives from studios located in over 150 towns in present-day Tamil Nadu, in the erstwhile Madras Presidency, Sri-Lanka as well as from South-East Asia( Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia).

The preventive conservation investigation by the INP in June 2018 (read more about it here) carried out a partial inventory of the photographic processes found in the STARS physical archive. Among the 2 and 3 layer processes, they identified:

      • monochrome silver halide glass-plates negatives
      • monochrome silver halide synthetic negatives
      • chromogenic synthetic negatives
      • positives on glass-plates
      • photomechanical monochrome positives on paper
      • silver halide monochrome positives on paper, sometimes overpainted
      • chromogenic colour positives on paper
      • albums

The archive is accessible for research purposes. It is located in the French Institute of Pondicherry. Contact us at to schedule an introduction to the unique and valuable resource.


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