1913 – 2012
India’s First Female Photojournalist
Being born into a middle class family and at that time, it was really a big challenge to make a space for oneself in a field that was chronically dominated by men & was could not guarantee a financially “secured” job. Yet she did it!
She had actively worked during those years when India and world was witnessing major events – Indian independence; its struggle; partition of India and the world war.
She had captured the nation in transition…the making of modern India.
To her credit she has many iconic photos : hoisting of Tricolor after independence; death of Mahatma Gandhi; the then PM Nehru releasing a pigeon, etc. She has photographed many other political leaders like Jinnah and Indira Gandhi as well but her favorite subject was Nehru.
Studied from J J School of Art, Mumbai, her early experience with camera was on a school trip to a temple where she clicked photos and later sold them for a rupee each. But her training and serious work started under Manekshaw Vyarawala to whom she later got married.
Most of her photographs were published under the pseudo-name “DALDA 13“. She was fond of the no. “13” because she born in the year 1913; got married at the age of 13 and her car’s no. plate read as “DLD 13”. But the irony was that died just a year before 2013.
She also encouraged her colleagues to call her “mumma” as she believed that this would command some respect for her. She was disappointed by the “attitude” of the “new generation” photographers, who, according to her, were money minded. This was one of the reasons why she quit her career, another being her husband’s death (1969).
But for her, the recognition and acknowledgement came much later. She was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 and Padma Vibhushan ( India’s 2nd highest civilian award) in 2011.
Meanwhile she had worked with the Illustrated Weekly of India, Mumbai and The British Information Services. Also, National Gallery for Modern Art ( Mumbai ) in collaboration with Alkazi Foundation; and New York Rubin Museum of Art have exhibited her works.
We should be grateful to her as we see our modern history partially through her lens.