New Delhi: Today Google celebrates the 104th birth anniversary of India’s first woman photojournalist, Homai Vyarawalla. Ms Vyarawalla’s contributions behind the camera have become some of Independent India’s most significant records of its history. Without Ms Vyarawalla, a significant portion of India’s history, and the change the nation underwent post-Independence, would have remained undocumented, and perhaps led to an incomplete national memory. Ms Vyarawalla was born in a Parsi family on 9th December, 1913 in Navsari, Gujarat. Ms Vyarawalla and her family moved to Mumbai, then Bombay, in 1932, where she went on to study at the JJ School of Art and met her future husband, Maneckshaw Vyarawalla, a photographer.
It was from him that she learned to operate a camera and learned the art of photography. Ms Vyarawalla decided she wanted to become a photographer at a time when women were not encouraged to have a trade or an occupation, other than being a homemaker.
Ms Vyarawalla’s choice to become a photographer was encouraged by her husband as well as her family. Her choice led to her becoming India’s first female photojournalist. This is turn pushed her towards documenting a vast number of historical incidents at a time when India was undergoing a number of drastic changes, post-Independence.
Ms Vyarawalla’s life was filled with a huge number of anecdotes as to how she documented these changes. Whether it was accidentally disrupting Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s last press conference in India, the day before he left for Pakistan in 1947 (her fall allegedly made Jinnah smile) or when she had to hitch a ride on the back of an army truck after taking the historic images of a young Dalai Lama as he crossed the Chinese border onto India in 1959. One of the most prominent historical figures featured in many of her photographs was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
After she retired, Ms Vyarawalla diligently archived her photographs as well as the many black-and-white negatives, which she later passed on to the Alkazi Foundation in Delhi.
Ms Vyarawalla passed away at the age of 98 on 15th January in 2012.
Courtesy of NDTV News