Author(s): Deepali Dewan; Deborah Hutton
During his lifetime, the path-breaking and prolific lensman Raja Deen Dayal (1884 1905) was one of the most widely recognized photographers from the Indian subcontinent. Today he remains among the most celebrated figures from this earlier era. This book brings together for the first time extensive archival research with close analysis of the significant body of Dayal's work preserved in the Alkazi Collection of Photography. Over the course of his remarkable career, Dayal opened studios in Indore, Secunderabad, and Bombay, employing over fifty staff photographers and assistants. Together, they produced over 30,000 images of architecture, landscape, and people that have played a central role in how India's past has been visualised. This volume explores varied topics, from Dayal's public works, state visit, and hunting photographs to his images chronicling India's elite and growing middle classes. In this way, he lays the groundwork needed to rethink the history and practice of photography in India: as a commercial business, as an engagement with new technology, and as an aesthetic enterprise. Trained as a draughtsman, Dayal rose quickly through the ranks as a Surveyor with the Public Works Department of the Central India Agency in Indore. He began photographing in the mid-1870s, becoming a master in the delicate art of developing glass plate negatives and albumen prints and producing what are still some of the most stunning views of the architecture and landscape of northern India. Ever the consummate businessman, Dayal soon counted the elite of British and Indian society amongst his clients. Eventually, he was appointed court photographer to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, and the studio became the first Indian firm to receive the Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria. Dayal's career testifies to photography's paramount role in the overlapping arenas of the Princely states, British Raj, and the emerging cosmopolitan centres of nineteenth-century India.