The woman who captured India’s modern history on camera

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Most of us haven’t even heard of the name Homai Vyarawalla, but in the pre-independence years, she was as famous as the leaders and events that she used to capture on film.

Homai Vyarawala

Homai Vyarawala, via

She was India’s first female photojournalist,  active in the late 1930s to early 1970s and was awarded Padma Vibhushan in recognition of her contribution as a photojournalist.

Born at Navsari (Gujarat) in a Parsi family in 1913, Ms. Vyarawalla had her education in Mumbai and moved to Delhi in 1942. She immediately shot to national fame as a woman photo-journalist publishing a series of photographs of important events during the pre-Independence days. She was in the profession for nearly four decades before retiring in 1970. The former Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was one of her favourite subjects. Mahatma Gandhi was less accommodating. He once scolded her for photographing him using a flash, saying: “This girl will not rest till she makes me blind.”

Till date, her work remains an important document on the making of Indian history. They are truly evocative images of a remarkable period of history taken by a remarkable woman. Despite her unique status and access, Homai was extremely modest and self-effacing.

She passed away on 15 January 2012 due to an illness.

The reason we believed this to be an inspiration is not just because she’s an artist with documentation, but also because in a country where gender disparity is still a big topic, it’s wonderful to read through histories of people and women who defy the stereotypes and inspire us!

We hope you spend this new week challenging all the set notions as well!

Have a great week ahead!


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