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Rare photographs of the Maharanas of Udaipur, its majestic landscape and architecture in sepia-tinted frames are documented in a book that throws light on different photographic processes used to preserve a century of heritage from 1857 to 1957.
On the occasion of International Museum Day, a book "Long Exposure - The Camera at Udaipur, 1857-1957", was launched here Sunday by the director-general of the National Museum, Venu V, in the presence of Arvind Singh Mewar of Udaipur, who is the chairman and managing trustee of the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation, the source of these photographs.
"This photographic collection has been carefully nurtured, promoted and conserved by generations of the family and constitutes one of the largest and most significant private archives in India with close to 30,000 individual objects," Arvind Singh said in a statement.
Venu V applauded this effort and said: "Private sector has an equally responsible role to play when it comes to museums and the sharing of historical resources."
Arvind Singh mentions in this 256-page book how Udaipur was among the earliest places to record the appearance of a camera in the form of 'camera obscura', an optical device meant to assist in the creation of realistic painting.
Through these photographs, the book also chronicles the journey of different photographic materials ranging from glass plate negatives, card photographs, photomontages and painted photograph, and photographic processes like albumen, platinum and gelatin silver prints.
"The photographs are a testament to the camera's documentary role in Mewar over a century, allowing for a nuanced insight into a complex world of hierarchy, power, symbolism and pride," said Pramod Kumar KG, one of the authors of the book.
"The process of archiving and documenting these riches over a two-year period allowed us a chance to examine the collection in great detail and to situate it amongst other historic collections both within and outside the country," he added.
But documentation was not an easy task.
"At the time of the commencement, the various materials that constituted the archive were spread over multiple locations across the city palace. These first needed to be gathered at one place," recollected Mrinalini Venkateswaran, co-author of the book.
"Trunks and bundles of photographs were gathered from the various stores across the complex and brought to the workplace, and then several days were spent in unpacking them," she added.
According to the authors, the process of documenting roughly 25,000 photographs took four years, with an assistant for photography.