When learning about nineteenth century photography, Lala Deen Dayal is possibly the only Indian photographer one could be introduced too. He was a Jain born in central India, living between 1844 and 1910 (Photography in India). Though he was trained as a draftsman he began learning photography in 1874. Dayal’s big break in photography came when Lord Northbrook visited Indore (Madhya Pradesh) and he got to photograph the events (Photography in India). After this initial photography opportunity, Dayal was given an assignment to photograph the ancient architecture of Bundelkhand (Photography in India). Bundelkhand is a region extending from southwestern Uttar Pradesh to North central Madhya Pradesh and was the site of the ancient Chedi kingdom.
Lala Deen Dayal is known for both portraiture and landscape images. During the 1880’s he opened his first photography studio in Indore which he relocates in the late 1880’s after making a photographic tour of north and central India (“Raja Deen Dayal and Sons: Photographing Hyderabad’s Famine Relief Efforts”). He also opened a portrait studio in Bombay. In 1894 the Nizam of Hyderabad appointed Dayal the official Nizam photographer, giving him a monthly salary (“Raja Deen Dayal and Sons:Photographing Hyderabad’s Famine Relief Efforts”). The Nizam wrote a poem which is translated here from Urdu:
“In the art of picture making
Sill surpasses all
A master even of masters
is Raja Deen Dayal”
Dayal’s association with the Nizam and his access to affluent people are probably the reason they stayed at the forefront of scholars minds. Regardless, he has earned his place as an influential nineteenth century Indian photographer because of the talent he possessed with photographic materials and dynamic compositions.
Hutton, Debora. “Raja Deen Dayal and Sons: Photographing Hyderabad’s Famine Relief Efforts.” History of Photography, Volume 31, Number 3. Autumn 2007.
____. Photography in India, 1858-1980, a survey. The Photographers’ Gallery, London, 1982.
Princely India: Photographs by Raja Deen Dayal (Knopf, 1980)
India Pioneering Photographers 1850 – 1900 (2001)
Raja Deen Dayal: Artist-Photographer in Nineteenth Century India (2013)
The Prince of Photographers Raja Deen Dayal (2006)
Princely India: Photographs by Raja Deen Dayal, 1884 – 1890 (1980)