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Framing The Kings

The Maharaja of Palanpur sits on a wooden chair dressed in an achkan,with pearls around his neck and a proud turban on his head.

A photography exhibition reminds us that kings were the real stars before Bollywood and cricket captivated us

The Maharaja of Palanpur sits on a wooden chair dressed in an achkan,with pearls around his neck and a proud turban on his head. Dry flowers are strewn on the floor in front of him,and a green bush has been painted in the backdrop. In another frame,the Maharaja of Benaras stands beside an ornate chair,tightly holding his sword in one hand,and seeming rather photo-conscious in his churidar. The photographs,depicting the grandeur of the erstwhile royals,are among the 28 images that will comprise the exhibition titled Journey into the Time of the Maharajas at Gallery Art Motif.

The image of the Maharaja of Palanpur has been captured by KL Syed,the official photographer of the state of Palanpur and among the first Indians to handle a camera. The photograph is now placed carefully in the royal albums of Nawab Shri Taley Mohammed Khan Bahadur of Palanpur. “It took a while for the photograph to be composed and one had to stand still for a long time,” says Abhishek Poddar,founder of Tasveer,who has organised the exhibition. Curator Nathaniel Gaskell adds,“Photographers at this time used plate cameras,which took single sheets of large format film,and the images required long exposure time.”

Poddar and Gaskell have spent the last six months sourcing photographs from dealers and private collectors. Some images were purchased at auctions in London,and others were acquired at the London Photo Fair.

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“We wanted to present prints that were in the best condition,as well as eye-catching in terms of composition,depiction of clothes,ornaments and facial expressions,” says Gaskell.

“There were no Bollywood stars or cricketers to look up to. The rulers were the icons,” says Poddar,looking at the image of Maharaja of Jamnagar and Maharaja Fateh Singh of Udaipur.

“These works offer a perfect example of the marriage between photography and painting. The image of the Maharaja of Jamnagar has royal gardens and distant landscapes hand-painted in the background. The Maharaja of Udaipur has a vase on a table and curtains behind him,akin to miniature paintings,” states Poddar. Gaskell adds that there is a “wonderful transition and fusion of styles,making for some interesting photographs that are uniquely Indian”.

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Vacheron Constantin,the oldest Swiss Haute Horologerie brand has collaborated with Tasveer for this exhibition to celebrate the years when their timepieces were collected by Indian rajas. At a special preview of the photographs to be held this evening at The Oberoi,two extraordinary Vacheron Constantin timepieces from 1916 that belonged to Sir Bhupinder Singh,the Maharaja of Patiala,will be displayed. These are a part of the “Treasures of Vacheron Constantin”,housed in the brand’s museum in Geneva.

The exhibition,minus the timepieces will travel to various galleries all over India. “Anything that is not commonplace is bound to attract attention. Indians are now increasingly feeling pride in their heritage,” says Poddar.

The exhibition will be held at Gallery Art Motif,F 213 C,Lado Sarai,from September 25-October 6.

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In Mumbai,it will be held at Institute of Contemporary Indian Art,22/26,K Dubhash Marg,Kala Ghoda from October 21-29.

First published on: 24-09-2011 at 03:18:55 am
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