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.
Our website is currently undergoing maintenance and re-design, due to which we have had to take down some of our bibliographies. While these will be re-published shortly, you can request references for specific articles by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.