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Updated: March 17, 2012 19:12 IST

The incisive portraitist

JESSU JOHN
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Floating with flowers: Barbara Mullen floating in a cotton mousseline dress
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Floating with flowers: Barbara Mullen floating in a cotton mousseline dress

Norman Parkinson's photos of India are as much about the country as they are about fashion.

Vogue photographer Norman Parkinson’s collection of photographs set in India has been doing the rounds of the country. “Pink is the Navy Blue of India” is an unrivalled 20th century photographic portfolio.

When Britain made a move to embrace the larger world more than five decades ago, Vogue suggested that Parkinson carry out a major photo shoot in India. He knew instinctively that readers would want to see more of the country and not just its fashion. He used a very different approach from other photographers of the time. Parkinson aimed to take Western fashion and combine it with Indian style.

He took a dress or a coat or a whole outfit and contrasted them with the richness of the Indian architecture and landscape. The result was that all the individual elements complemented each other.

When Vogue hit the newsstands in Britain in November 1956, Parkinson managed to stun the fashion world with his fresh and contemporary look at India. On his travels from Mahabalipuram to Kashmir, he froze on film the mood, ambience and colour of his surroundings.

Enchanted by his body of work set in India, Diana Vreeland, then editor of Harper’s Bazaar famously proclaimed, “How clever of you, Mr. Parkinson also to know that pink is the navy blue of India.”

As a fashion photographer whose career spanned seven decades, Parkinson has been described as an ‘incisive portraitist’ and is known for having captured many of the world’s most beautiful women as well as iconic personalities of the last century.

He had an impulsive and unstructured style that altered the static, posed approach to fashion photography, and his inimitable idiosyncrasies worked to charm his muses and render him an alluring and glamorous image.

Pink is the Navy Blue of India; Norman Parkinson up to March 20 (except Sundays) At Tasveer , #26/1, SUA House, Kasturba Cross Road, Bangalore. Ph: 080- 22128358

Bottomline: A fresh and contemporary look at India.

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