South Asian Photo 101: Lala Deen Dayal

Bibi Ka Makbara

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.

The Maharana of Bundi, 1890


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.

Further Reading:

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)

By |2016-11-10T18:15:44-06:00December 3rd, 2014|South Asian Photo 101|1 Comment

About the Author:

Betsy Williamson is an assistant professor of art in the state of New Mexico. Before coming to New Mexico for this job she was an adjunct professor throughout Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, teaching photography and art appreciation. Between September 2015 and May 2017, she took a break from teaching to pursue art, research and life in India. Now she is back to teaching and part-timing it in India.

One Comment

  1. akbar August 17, 2017 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    thanks for showing great history photos

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