The Indian Lensman Who Photographed Henri-Cartier Bresson

Travel to '70s Paris through the photographs of Professor Parmanand Dalwadi, who accompanied the legendary French photojournalist on his 1965 journey across northern India.

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“A kiss stolen the Bresson way” from Parmanand Dalwadi’s exhibition titled A Trip to France, 1970. Photo by: Parmanand Dalwadi

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The decisive moment. Candid photography. Street photography. Henri Cartier-Bresson is known as the father of several subgenres and the holder of countless titles in the craft and practice of photojournalism. The late Frenchman enjoys popularity across the world. In India, Cartier-Bresson is probably to photography what Shakespeare is to English.

As part of travelling across the world for work, Cartier-Bresson made six memorable trips to India in the two decades following its Independence from British rule. His earlier visits to the newly liberated nation were to document life and political events such as the loss of Mahatma Gandhi. In what was a prolonged “decisive moment” on its own, Cartier-Bresson first photographed Gandhi a week before the latter was assassinated, and then covered the leader’s funeral.

In 1965, the renowned photographer, known for his images depicting vignettes of life in Srinagar, Ahmedabad, and Jaipur among others, would tour the country again, this time travelling across northern India. His companion on the journey was a young Gujarati Fine Arts graduate named Parmanand Dalwadi, who he met at the prestigious National Institute of Design.

 

The Indian Lensman Who Photographed Henri Cartier Bresson

Photographer Parmanand Bresson’s Paris photos depict the French capital à la mode—life on the streets, official celebrations, protests, and other subtly humorous situations in a style that is distinctly reminiscent of Bresson. Dalwadi also lensed his mentor, known to be a camera-shy man, on a trip to India (bottom left). Photos by: Parmanand Dalwadi

 

One of the many young visual artists who he encouraged to take up photography in India, Dalwadi went on to be chosen by Cartier-Bresson to work in Paris alongside the legendary photographer Pierre Gassmann. The former is also known to have photographed Cartier-Bresson himself—a man who was known to be extremely averse to being clicked. His Paris photographs depict the French capital à la mode—protests and celebrations, street scenes at cafés, bridges and metro stations, liberal expressions of love and sundry other frames depicting the charming public life in the city five decades ago. 

In a photo exhibition that has come to the National Capital courtesy the Institut Français and the French Embassy, all 50 of Dalwadi’s images captured on his Nikon F during that life-changing visit to the French capital, will be on display in New Delhi in two phases. Part of the Indo-French summer festival Bonjour India celebrating 75 years of Indian Independence, the exhibition showcases the Indian photographer’s documentation of life in Paris as he saw it.

The exhibition is arguably a poetic culmination of Cartier-Bresson and Dalwadi’s alliance and an endearing testimony of how a legendary artist’s unique style and perspective informed the Indian photographer’s creative response. Dalwadi’s iconic images from Paris will be displayed in Delhi before travelling to other cities for the duration of the long cultural festival organised by the network of Alliance Françaises and the French Embassy in India.

 

Also Read | A Singaporean Photographer in Little India

 

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A Trip to France, 1970 — a photo exhibition by Parmanand Dalwadi

 

When: April 15-30 (New Delhi; goes on across cities till August 10)

Where: Taj Palace (April 15-20, 11am to 7pm), Chanakyapuri; Art Konsult (April 21-30, 11am to 7pm), Hauz Khas 

Viewing the exhibition is free for all 

More details here

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  • Prannay Pathak dreams about living out of a suitcase and retiring to the island of Hamneskär to watch films in solitary confinement. He is Assistant Editor (Digital) at National Geographic Traveller India.

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