Kulwant Roy (1914-1984) was among the handful of Indian photojournalists who lived and worked through the exciting times before and after India’s Independence, yet his contributions seemed all but lost in the annals of time until relatively recently. His valuable archive of unpublished prints and negatives lay forgotten in boxes for more than 20 years after his death in ’84 until they were discovered by the man who was a close family friend and to whom Roy had left his work.
While Roy’s photographs which allow us into old cities and towns when they were less crowded, to ride in outmoded means of transport (Royal Enfield motorcycle or a car with a short license plate: DLB 300), to listen to a giant radio set or discuss old sartorial trends in India’s diverse society, are fascinating in its entire breadth, it is politics which Aditya Arya describes as the spinal cord of his story. Roy’s photographs recorded and captured events preceding and following India’s independence, in the true spirit of the medium, without reconstruction, manipulation or staging. “Kulwant’s Roy’s photographs never make us feel that history is headed in the wrong direction,” writes historian Indivar Kamtekar, “On the contrary, they declare that the world was progressing. In doing so, they embody the optimism of the first decades of independent India”.
Here is a selection of historical images of Jawaharlal Nehru from Roy’s work, as documented by Arya in the valuable visual archive History in the Making.
Kulwant Roy gifted his work to Aditya Arya, who has since archived them under the aegis of the India Photo Archive Foundation. Arya can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org