mumbai

Shapoor N. Bhedwar, Tyag No. 4: The Mystic Sign, ca. 1890, black-and-white photograph, 10 1⁄4 x 13 1⁄2".

“The Artful Pose”

Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum

Shapoor N. Bhedwar, Tyag No. 4: The Mystic Sign, ca. 1890, black-and-white photograph, 10 1⁄4 x 13 1⁄2".

A MELANCHOLY YOUNG WOMAN sits on the steps of a crumbling building, a pile of glistening fruit beside her. The folds of her white robe seem to glow. Do her garments symbolize purity? Is she a representation of the chaste goddess Diana? Instead of a toga, though, the snowy fabric swaddling her looks suspiciously like a sari—draped in the Gujarati style favored by the Parsi community in Mumbai. Shapoor N. Bhedwar’s Fair Fruitseller, ca. 1890—one of the photographs included in the recent exhibition “The Artful Pose: Early Studio Photography in Mumbai, c. 1855–1940,” at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum—resonantly attests to the (often hilariously) hybrid nature of early photography in India.

Curated by Rahaab Allana and the museum’s honorary director, Tasneem Mehta, and sourced from the vast photography collection of the New Delhi–based Alkazi Foundation for the

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