Del Tufo & Co
An early twentieth-century photographic studio set up in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and India, E. Del Tufo & Co specialised in portrait photography. Established by Inez Maria — born in 1876 in Kutch to an Italian merchant — and her husband Innocenzo del Tufo in both Colombo and Madras (now Chennai), the studio primarily provided individual and group portraiture services to affluent civilians as well as military personnel. It subsequently established branches in Bangalore (now Bengaluru), where the studio was attached to the Freemason’s Lodge in the cantonment, and in the hill station Ootacamund (now Ooty). A prominent sign at the storefront announced that the proprietors were “Photographers by special appointment to the King of Italy” – though the veracity of the claim has not been established – to ostensibly give the studio an edge in the increasingly competitive arena of studio photography.The studio’s name was changed to Madame Del Tufo in 1914, following the death of Innocenzo in 1912.
Besides its standard photographic offerings, which also included developing and enlarging of negatives, it provided services such as hand-finishing and retouching (through pencil-shading and painting) and repairing wooden components of cameras. The studio printed its portraits as cabinet cards, while its landscapes and archaeological views, which it produced in smaller numbers, were in the form of postcards.
As the sole owner of the studio after 1912, Inez Maria used the name Madame Del Tufo while undertaking her personal photography projects as well as her commercial studio work. She established herself as one of the early women photographers in Ceylon and built a reputation through 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 in 1930, and Inez Maria passed away in 1952.
The legacy of E. Del Tufo & Co continues to have a relevant place in South Asian history. Photographs produced by the studio were shown at the Spectacular: Cities and People exhibition as part of the 2019 edition of the Krishnakriti Festival, Hyderabad, and at the 2015 exhibition Imaging the Isle Across at The National Museum, New Delhi.
“An isle, more from without than from within.” Sunday Times (Sri Lanka), 15 November 2015. https://www.pressreader.com/sri-lanka/sunday-times-sri-lanka/20151115/283429190460557.
Bautze, Joachim K. 2017. “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: Skira2017.
“Colonial India, as Captured by Master Photographers, Is Focus of a New Exhibition in Hyderabad.” Firstpost. Accessed 11 March 2021. https://www.firstpost.com/long-reads/colonial-india-as-captured-by-master-photographers-is-focus-of-a-new-exhibition-in-hyderabad-5856581.html.
FamilySearch. n.d. “Sir Moroboe Vincenzo del Tufo Vincenzo CMG.” Accessed 11 March 2021. https://ancestors.familysearch.org/en/LTT4-TG7/sir-moroboe-vincenzo-del-tufo-cmg-1901-1961.
Gaskell, Nathaniel, and Diva Gujral. 2018. Photography in India: A Visual History from the 1850s to the Present. Munich: Prestel Publishing.
Hughes, Stephen, and Emily Stevenson. 2019. “South India Addresses the World: Postcards, Circulation, and Empire.” The Trans-Asia Photography Review. April 12, 2019. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/t/tap/7977573.0009.208/–south-india-addresses-the-world-postcards-circulation.
Muthiah, S. 2017. “Three Women Photographers.” The Hindu, 17 July 2017. https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/women-photographers-of-old-chennai/article19294060.ece.