Sooni Taraporevala’s photography project ‘Parsis’, which captures facets of the Parsi community, opens in Delhi today

Growing up in Mumbai in a Parsi household, Sooni Taraporevala saw her father click many pictures of their family members and would capture them in black and white images using a twin lens Rolleicord camera. Soon enough, she picked up the camera and started photography on her own.

At first she clicked all that she pleased, including members of her family, and continued to work as a professional photographer. Having spent the better part of her initial photography years in capturing images of her family, she had in her hands, a project, which just needed to be taken up formally. After her encounter with the famous photographer, late Raghubir Singh, who after seeing her work advised her to take up photographing her community, started the 36- year-old and still on-going photography project -- of capturing members of the Parsi community, named “Parsis”.

“(Raghubir Singh) saw amongst my eclectic collection of photographs the subject that had been staring me in the face but that I had failed to see, a photographic study of my community. What had begun nostalgically and personally, grew into a more objective project that encompassed a world larger than my immediate family”, said Sooni.

Despite popular Parsi business tycoons and Bollywood culture, knowledge of the community’s existence remains largely hidden in and around India. It was only when Sooni went away to college and started travelling around the world did she realise the dwindling numbers of her community. The statistical truth about the community’s footprint on earth spurred Sooni to capture members of the Parsi community in their true flavour, with men wearing the traditional sola topi and women in short cropped hair. This was not to portray stereotypical images but to capture them in their characteristic facets; and not to be lost in the faceless metropolitan. “Numerically we are a dying community. In the future will we still be around? I don’t know the answer to that question. Perhaps that is the reason why, despite several detours, the project I began 36 years ago is still on-going,” said Sooni.

Her exhibition opens in Delhi at the India Habitat Centre today.