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    ARTICLE

    Indira Debi (b. 1912; d. 1992)

    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).

    Among the first Indian female photographers of the twentieth century, Indira Debi was born in a well-known Brahmo family where she and her older sister Mira (Choudhuri) were taught, by their father Dwijendralal Maitra, to take photographs at a young age on a Brownie (No. 2) box camera. Dwijendralal Maitra, who was a doctor at Kolkata’s Mayo Hospital, was also a part of the Bengali literary circles, a close associate of Rabindranath Tagore and a photographer himself. Brahmo families at the time were keen on educating their daughters and photography was seen as an ennobling art for women and therefore a Brahmo Samaj–run institution called Women’s Art Institute was established in 1916.

    Given that she had a domestic life, with a parallel “amateur” photographic practice, there are few records about her life and work. In an interview, her sister, Mira, recalls Debi’s particular finesse with tabletop compositions, a form of still life photography where items are arranged on a table or table-like surface. She is also remembered for her abstracts and still lifes; also among her images there is a set of highly stylised portraits of her daughter, Anuradha, in Italy. She is known to have spent time in Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, and being involved in discussions on photography with her young nephew, Mukul Dey, who later went on to become a photographer and an artist renowned for his drypoint etchings. Debi died in 1992 at the age of 80.

     
    Bibliography

    Gadihoke, Sabeena. “The Home and Beyond: Domestic and Amateur Photography by Women in India (1930–-1960)”. Sarai Reader 2003: Shaping Technologies. http://archive.sarai.net/files/original/ed793cb1e28c39e9081fc479ff7545f8.pdf

    Sengupta, Debjani (tr.). “Zenana Studio: Early Women Photographers of Bengal, from Taking Pictures: The Practice of Photography by Bengalis, by Siddhartha Ghosh”. In Trans Asia Photography Review: In Translation 4, no:2. Spring 2014. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/t/tap/7977573.0004.202/–zenana-studio-early-women-photographers-of-bengal?rgn=main;view=fulltext

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