22 June, 2021

Christopher Pinney

Anthropologist and author on South Asian visual culture, most recently, The Coming of Photography in India

Christopher Pinney
What prompted the shift from anthropologist to art historian?

In Malwa 25 years ago, I was fascinated by the pictures on the walls. Gradually, I became obsessed with calendar art.

Where did you find your collection of chromolithographs and calendar art images?

Markets, bottom drawers of framing shops, and personal archives of publishers and artists.

What can popular art tell us about history?

Through anomalies, we see a popular set of concerns that’s counter to the history we know.

What’s striking about Indian vernacular photography’?

Photographers’ great disinterest in landscapes.


Before photography, only gods and kings had faces. Mass portraiture enabled the public to represent themselves to themselves.

What’s the difference between Judeo-Christian visions of Hell, such as Blake’s, and ours?

‘Karm ke phal’ (fruits of actions) images feed into the Ideal Boy imagery, a politically regressive vision of obedient citizenship.


More from Shruti Ravindran

Latest Magazine

June 28, 2021

other articles from the issue

articles from the previous issue

Other magazine section