………well, not actually Jawaharlal Nehru himself, but hundreds if not thousands of photographs taken of him by long-forgotten Associated Press (AP) photographer, Kulwant Roy – one of the first of a distinguished line of Indian writer-photographers working for the foreign and domestic media.
There are well over 7,000 – maybe even 10,000 – images in the collection. A tiny sample of 85 are now on show in Delhi, till October 21, at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts – History in the Making – the Visual Archives of Kulwant Roy.
The collection highlights India’s nationalist history with its meetings and marches. There are marvellous pictures of Mr Nehru, many with Mahatma Gandhi and others including Lord Mountbatten and Edwina, his wife and Mr Nehru’s close friend.
Born in Ludhiana in 1914, Mr Roy started work as a photographer in Lahore in the 1930s. He joined the Royal Indian Air Force near Quetta in 1941 and took aerial pictures from the cockpits of aircraft planes. But, says an introduction to the exhibition, Mr Roy “found it difficult to tolerate the discriminatory policies of his British superiors and had to leave the air force after being court martialled”.
Just before partition he set up Associated Press Photos in old Delhi – and some of what followed is now on view.
In 1958 he left India for three years travelling abroad taking pictures with him to sell with his stories. In 1963 Roy put all his prints and negatives together in boxes and mailed them to his address in Delhi. When he returned, none of them had arrived and he never found them. Now they have been recovered and are on view here. He died in 1984.
It is worth a visit if you are in Delhi. Later the organisers, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, will take the exhibition elsewhere, maybe London and Mumbai. Harper Collins India will be publishing a book of the works in August next year.
All images © Aditya Arya Archive