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    Del Tufo & Co

    Map Academy

    Articles are written collaboratively by the EIA editors. More information on our team, their individual bios, and our approach to writing can be found on our About pages. We also welcome feedback and all articles include a bibliography (see below).

    An early-twentieth-century commercial photographic studio specialising in portraits, Del Tufo & Co was set up in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), as well as various locations in southern India. It was established c. 1900 in both Colombo and Madras (now Chennai), India, by the Italian photographers Innocenzo del Tufo (1844–1912) and his wife Inez Maria Gibello (1876–1952), the latter of whom went on to achieve prominence as a documentary photographer herself. 

    The studio subsequently established branches in Bangalore (now Bengaluru) and Ootacamund (now Ooty) in India, alongside those of other prominent studios of the time. It primarily provided individual and group portraiture services to military personnel as well as affluent civilians, and announced itself with a storefront sign claiming the proprietors to be ‘Photographers by Special Appointment to the King of Italy’. Though the veracity of this claim has not been established, it ostensibly gave the studio an edge in the increasingly competitive arena of studio photography at the time. Besides its standard photographic offerings, which included developing and enlarging of negatives, it provided services such as hand-finishing and retouching of photographs using pencil and paints, and repairing wooden components of cameras. The studio mounted its portrait prints into cabinet cards, which had replaced the smaller carte de visite format by the late nineteenth century; meanwhile, the landscapes and archaeological views that the studio produced in smaller numbers, took the form of postcards. 

    Following the death of Innocenzo in 1912, Inez Maria became the sole owner of the studio and renamed it Madame Del Tufo in 1914. She undertook personal photography projects as well as commercial studio work under this name. Born to an Italian merchant in Kutch in western India, she established herself as one of the early women photographers in Ceylon, becoming renowned for her extensive photographic documentation of houses in the city. As a result of this phase of Inez Maria’s career, she and the firm are still closely associated with Sri Lanka, possibly more so than with Madras or India. The studio closed by 1930, and Inez Maria died in 1952.

    Photographs produced by the studio were shown at the 2015 exhibition Imaging the Isle Across, curated by The Alkazi Foundation for the Arts and shown at the National Museum, New Delhi; as well as the Spectacular: Cities and People exhibition as part of the 2019 edition of the Krishnakriti Festival, Hyderabad.


    “An Isle, More from Without Than from Within.” Sunday Times (Sri Lanka), November 15, 2015.

    Bautze, Joachim K. “The Origins of Photography in South Asia. Selected Themes.” In On the Paths of Enlightenment. The Myth of India in Western Culture 1808–2017, edited by Elio Schenini. Geneva: Skira, 2017.

    “Colonial India, As Captured by Master Photographers, Is Focus of a New Exhibition in Hyderabad.” Firstpost. Accessed 11 March 2021.

    FamilySearch. “Sir Moroboe Vincenzo del Tufo Vincenzo CMG.” Accessed 11 March 2021.

    Gaskell, Nathaniel, and Diva Gujral. Photography in India: A Visual History from the 1850s to the Present. Munich: Prestel Publishing, 2018.

    Hughes, Stephen, and Emily Stevenson. “South India Addresses the World: Postcards, Circulation, and Empire.” The Trans-Asia Photography Review 9, no. 2 (Spring 2019). Accessed April 12, 2019.

    Muthiah, S. “Three Women Photographers.” The Hindu, July 17, 2017.

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