The syncretistic coming together of painting and photography was attempted from the early years of the invention of modern photography in 1839. Glass plate negatives and photographs were regularly touched up to create improved photographic prints using lens coatings and a variety of dark room technologies. A second and more fecund form of art was to emerge with the addition of a layer of colour to the printed photographic image.

Curated by Pramod Kumar KG of the New Delhi-based museum consultancy Eka, this exhibition articulates the continued tradition of painted photographs in Udaipur through the works of Waswo X. Waswo and Rajesh Soni, contextualized via examples from the large oeuvre of work of their predecessors maintained at the Pictorial Archives of the Maharanas of Mewar.

Waswo’s digitally printed studio portraits have been hand coloured by Rajesh Soni, an Udaipur artist whose grandfather Prabhu Lal Verma was an artist-photographer attached to Maharana Bhupal Singh’s court. In a further engagement with Udaipur painters and in keeping with pictorialist studio conventions, Waswo uses a variety of hand painted backdrops for his sitters to pose in front of. Waswo says of his work, “In Udaipur I hoped to revisit this territory of the late 19th century and early 20th century photography, both paying homage to…and also playfully mocking…the genre as practiced by foreign ethnographers and Indian Studio portraitists alike.”

In 2008, the photographic materials held at the Pictorial Archives of the Maharanas of Mewar were digitized and archived. The Bhagwat Prakash Photo Gallery was established within the City Palace Museum Complex in March 2009. Today, it is a centre for the dissemination of this rich holding of visual material culture with the collection now being made available for research and the scholarly community, and through exhibitions such as these to the museum-going public and wider community. This is the second exhibition to be mounted at the gallery.(Bhupendra Singh Auwa)