A retrospective exhibition of some of Homai's specially selected photographs was mounted at the Lalit Kala Akademi's Gallery to coincide with the launch of UNESCO PARZOR Foundation book “India in Focus Camera Chronicles of Homai Vyarawalla”, authored by Sabeena Gadihoke.
The Exhibition was inaugurated by Mrs. Ambika Soni, Hon'ble Minister for Tourism and Culture on Saturday 25 th February 2006, after she had been given a traditional Parsi welcome with “tili” and “sagan”. Mrs. Homai Vyarawalla accompanied by Dr. Shernaz Cama, Director of the UNESCO PARZOR Project conducted the dignitary round Galleries No.1 and 2 of Lalit Kala Akademi. The Exhibition had been set up under the supervision of Homai, who in spite of her 92 years, was most active, not merely in setting up the Exhibition but in going “behind” the photographs with her remarkable “recall” to the many of the visitors.
She had specially selected to mount two large photographs outside the Gallery to give them special effect. Nehru releasing a pigeon against the background of distant clouds immediately caught everyone's attention. Homai explained how she was present when Nehru had come to inaugurate the first Children's Day Mela on his birthday in the mid fifties. The fleeting (gauze-like) clouds in the background made her photograph world famous.
As the visitors went round the gallery, history of India of almost a century unfolded before their eyes. The stalwarts of India's freedom struggle and those who ruled over India soon after Independence came to life. The often forgotten fact that the Tricolour over the Red Fort was first unfurled on 16 th August 1947 and not 15 th August as has become traditional ever since on Independence Day was encapsuled in Homai's lens. “They were still busy signing their names in the Constitutional Assembly on 15th August” is how Homai puts it across.
Photos of the distinguished visitors to India ranged from Ho Chin Minh of Vietnam to Khruchev and Bulganin of the USSR, the Queen of England and Jacquline Kenedy brought to mind a ”security” free India when photographers could approach dignitaries at close quarters without having to use telephoto lens.
There was an interesting section of photographs of the expatriate community “living it up” in Clubs and at parties and of “cabaret” dances at the Marina Hotel. Many of these had seldom been seen by the public.
Delhi and Cannught Place in particular shone in their pristine beauty. “The pearl necklace” of white colonnades as Homai remembered it for 27 years she had lived there is special interest today when an attempt is being made to bring it back to its erstwhile glory.
The photos of Parsi Bombay of the ‘thirties of the last century, and the early photographs first published in the Bombay Chronicles and the Illustrated Weekly of India added a different flavour. Many in the latter category had been hand coloured (as there was no colour photography those days). Some had even been credited to Manekshaw Homai's boy friend whom she ultimately married after 13 years, because the publications were not prepared to give the byline to a woman !!
The Exhibition remained open from the evening of 25th February to the evening of 3rd March and was visited by almost a thousand persons.
The Exhibition of photographs gave visitors a taste of the type of images, and the history behind them, revealed in the book. A limited number of books had been brought for sale during the exhibition and after seeing the photographs, many visitors were inclined to buy the book. By the end of the Exhibition, that batch had been sold out.
If you would like a copy of the book, Click here for more information about the book and a ordering information.