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The Colonial Eye
Early Portrait Photography in India

20.07.2012 to 21.10.2012
Museum für Fotografie

One of the world's most comprehensive and significant collections of portrait photography from India is on exhibit for the first time. The collection was originally thought to be lost during World War II, only gradually returning to Berlin's National Museums beginning in the 1990s.

Now, around 300 photographs from the second half of the nineteenth century offer a comprehensive overview of portrait photography from the Indian subcontinent. In addition to pictures by renowned photographers and studios such as Samuel Bourne, Sheperd & Robertson, A.T.W. Penn, and John Burke, works by lesser known artists are also on display. Popular and unexpectedly diverse ethnographic photography of the time stands in contrast to stylised street shots of artisans, as well as portraits of nobility, including Islamic princes and princesses, Maharajas, and clan leaders, taken in their own palaces or in artfully set studio scenes.

One unifying aspect of many early portraits is a particularly European view - "The Colonial Eye". In the second half of the nineteenth century, in the name of science and colonialism, the land and its inhabitants were to be apprehended through observation and cataloguing, analysation and measurement. The fascination with India was especially evoked by the strange-looking indigenous peoples and the caste-system, as well as the splendour of the Indian nobility and the austere life of ascetics.

An exhibition organized by the Art Library, the Ethnological Museum, and the Museum of Asian Art.

Jebensstraße 2
10623 Berlin

wheelchair accessible

U-Bahn: Kurfürstendamm, Zoologischer Garten
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