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Of priceless views

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Unique Rare photographs like this one are part of Gujral’s collection
Unique Rare photographs like this one are part of Gujral’s collection

Antique Indian photography is up for grabs at Bonhams, London

This Tuesday, priceless Indian artefacts go under the hammer. These include Shah Jahan’s dagger and India in Photography — the sale of a collection of Kanwardip Gujral’s, at Bonhams in London.

Bonhams has been one of the leading auction houses for over 300 years now. They have previously had auctions of Indian photographs in the October of 2006 and 2007. But this is the first time that more than 400 photographs from the 1850s to 1940s will be on offer. Gujral, a Hamburg-based businessman, collected these works from across Europe and Asia.

The collection is remarkable in its variety. It includes not only regal portraits but also architecture, landscapes, transport, trade and natural history. It provides a near composite view of life from the Revolt to the stirrings of Independence.

Himalayas to Chennai

The photos are in good condition as they have been kept mainly in Europe. Photos in India tend to be disastrously affected by the climate. The collection covers India from the Himalayas to Chennai. But Gujral gives away his place of growing up with a number of pictures of Agra.

Mathew Hales from Bonhams London feels that the collection is significant for its variety and intact condition. Estimates for the photographs range from £100 to £15,000.

Speaking from London, Hales senses a new and fierce interest in Indian photography. The interested buyers are Indians but also collectors based in the United Kingdom. Hales elaborates, “Many collectors based in the U.K. are from conservative military backgrounds who might often have been born in India.”

Gujral had a knack for discovering the hidden and the precious. One of the main attractions of the auction will be an album of views from Kashmir, belonging to the Viceroy Lords Lansdowne. The collection includes the works of pioneering photojournalists and photographers like Felice Beato and John Murray. Hales believes that Murray’s photographs of Agra are invaluable. Murray’s photos were taken after the 1857 Revolt and are distinct for their size and composition. Murray says, “The Taj Mahal is the most iconic Indian landmark. Murray’s photos measure 40cms by 45cms, while most photos are standard A4 size. He used a large camera to get excellent views.” With panoramas being all the fashion in the photo world, it will be no surprise if these photos fetch the most.

NANDINI NAIR

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