One of the first professional women photographers in India, Mrs E Mayer, as she is known in current scholarship, was listed as a member of the Bengal Photographic Society in 1857 — the year it held its first official meeting.
Mayer opened a professional studio in 1863, making her the first woman in India to do so. The studio was located in Calcutta (now Kolkata) at Number 7, on the corner of Old Court House Street near St. Andrew’s Church, and catered mainly to female members of royal and noble families. In 1864, Mayer moved the studio to a new location at Number 5, Waterloo Street, Calcutta. One of her photographs was shown at the BSP Annual Exhibition held later that year. The studio is believed to have been closed down in 1866.
At the time, it was rare for women — even those with the means to get their picture made — to visit photography studios alone. Run and operated by a female photographer, Mayer’s studio may have alleviated these concerns by having a woman photographer instead of a man.
There exist limited records of professional women photographers of the time. It is possible that Mayer’s studio had a steady, if sparse, clientele, and like others established afterwards — such as one opened by Mrs D Garrick in 1877 in Calcutta — Mayer had to close the enterprise within a few years.
Ghosh, Niharika. 2019. “A Woman In 19th Century Bengal Paved The Way For The First Female Photographers In India.” Homegrown. December 11. https://homegrown.co.in/article/804002/a-woman-in-19th-century-bengal-paved-the-way-for-the-first-female-photographers-in-india.
Ghosh, Siddhartha. 2014. “Zenana Studio: Early Women Photographers of Bengal, from Taking Pictures: The Practice of Photography by Bengalis,” translated by Debjani Sengupta. In Translation 4 (2). https://quod.lib.umich.edu/t/tap/7977573.0004.202?view=text;rgn=main.
“Mrs E. Mayer.” n.d. Luminous Lint. http://www.luminous-lint.com/app/photographer/Mrs_E__Mayer/A/.