Deepali Dewan
Assistant Professor of Fine Art, University of Toronto
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(Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum Press, 2012) A painted photograph, understood broadly, is paint on a photographic surface applied through retouching, tinting, hand-colouring, or other methods. This can range from only a few brushstrokes to an opaque layer of paint that entirely covers the photographic print. Painted photographs can seem surprising or remarkable to the contemporary eye but were common in the early history of photography when paint and the photograph had a far closer relationship than they do today. Ranging from the quickly executed to the stunningly beautiful, painted photographs were markers of modernity, combining past and present visual forms into new hybrid varieties. Introduced in the latter half of the nineteenth century, at a time when the world was seemingly getting smaller through ever-increasing trade, travel and tourism, painted photographs gave colour to black-and-white images of a changing world and new ways of being. This book traces the evolution of painted photographs in India from the 1860s, a few decades after the invention of photographs, to the 2000s, long after the introduction of colour photography. It focuses on a collection of more than seventy works at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. These include portraits of princely rulers, merchants, and elite and non-elite patrons produced by professional photography studios, painters, and those who fell somewhere in between. Dominated by portraiture, these images mark rites of passage such as coronation, marriage, honeymoon, pilgrimage, festivals, and even death. This book explores photographic history in India and Europe to show how Indian painted photographs fit into both local and transcultural practices of photographic manipulation.