21 June, 2021

History On Bromide

From the convulsive '40s to the hopeful '60s—an exhibition finally recognises forgotten photojournalist Kulwant Roy

Kulwant Roy
History On Bromide

Twice, over 24 years, Aditya Arya tried to open the boxes that photojournalist Kulwant Roy delivered to him, bit by bit, on his Lambretta scooter before he died, anonymous and impoverished, in 1984. But each time, he gave up. There was just too much in those boxes, explains Arya, an advertising photographer with a busy schedule.

There is still too much. On the eve of the first exhibition of Roy's work, which opens at Delhi's Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) on October 3, thousands of Roy's negatives, in neatly labelled boxes, remain unseen. But the 7,000-odd that Arya has digitally scanned since December 2007—when he finally began to unpack the legacy that Roy, a family friend, had bequeathed him—are glimpses of a historical treasure house.

One part of the unfolding story is that several striking images, capturing scenes from the last years of British rule and the early decades after Independence, have turned out to be Roy's work: Gandhi and Jinnah arguing in 1939, Nehru and Ghaffar Khan strolling in Simla...

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