‘Photos of the Gods’: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India

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This lavishly illustrated book examines the history of the printed image in India from its beginnings in the 1870s to the present day. Using many intriguing and unfamiliar visuals, it shows how printed images have been pivotal to the constructions of new forms of religious identity and the struggle for political independence in India. Drawing on years of archival research, interviews with artists and publishers, and the ethnographic study of their rural consumers, the book makes for an engaging visual and narrative journey. It sets the detailed output of individual presses and artists against the intensification of the nationalist struggle, the constraints imposed by colonial state censorship, and fifty years of Indian independence. Along the way, it also introduces the reader to artists who trained within colonial art schools, others whose skills reflect their membership of traditional painting castes, and yet others who are self-taught former sign painters. Combining anthropology, political and cultural history, and the study of aesthetic systems, the book shows that the current predicament of India cannot be understood without taking into account this complex, exciting, and until now virtually unseen, visual history. This book will fascinate general readers, art lovers and all those interested in South Asian history, popular art and culture.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Christopher Pinney

Christopher Pinney is Professor of Anthropology and Visual Culture at University College London. His chief interests are in commercial print culture and photography in South Asia and popular Hinduism in central India. He has held visiting positions at the Australian National University (Canberra), University of Chicago, University of Cape Town, Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois), Boğaziçi University (Istanbul) and Jagiellonian University (Krakow), among others. His publications include Camera Indica (1997), “Photos of the Gods” (2004), The Coming of Photography in India (2008) and Photography and Anthropology (2011). A book about mirages, The Waterless Sea, is forthcoming.


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Bibliographic information

‘Photos of the Gods’: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India
1st ed.
239p., Illustrations; References; BIbliography; Index.