Photos: Homai Vyarawalla Archive & The Alkazi Collection of Photography
Text: Guardian 20
Arguably India’s first female photo journalist, and the only one of her time, Homai Vyarawalla passed away in 2012 after celebrating her 98th birthday. Her camera chronicled the decades between the 1930s and the 1970s — the most significant part of Indian history during which the country struggled for freedom, attained its independence, and celebrated the early euphoric days of becoming a free republic.
Homai began her career in 1937, with pictures of a women’s picnic at the J.J. School of Arts in Bombay. She was to become a significant chronicler of our early national history after moving to Delhi in the early 1940s, where she spent 27 years. During her employment with the British Information Services (known as British High Commision later on), Homai was allowed to do freelance assignments. She travelled the lenght and breadth of the country — to the ravines of the Chambal Valley, on cranes high above the Bhakra Dam, trekking through the jungles of Manipur and hitching rides in Sikkim where she shot the first crossing of the Dalai Lama to India in 1956.
These images provide a glimpse into the life of the young nation through the lens of a photographer who had a keen eye for frames. Sometime in 1970, after feeling disillusioned due to politics and what was happening around her, Homai decided to part with her camera — never to pick it up again.