Homai Vyarawalla, Indian photojournalist, first Indian woman to work as a photojournalist, died she was 98
Homai Vyarawalla, commonly known by her pseudonym “Dalda 13,” was India’s first woman photojournalist died she was 98.. First active in the late 1930s, she retired in the early 1970s. In 2011, she was awarded Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award of the Republic of India.
(9 December 1913 – 15 January 2012)
Early life and education
A Gandhian at heart, Vyarawalla imbibed the Mahatma’s teachings in
her everyday life. She followed a simple, spartan lifestyle, and lived
in near-anonymity for years.
She started her career in 1930s and thereafter received notice at the
national level when she moved to Mumbai in 1942 with her family, before
moving to Delhi, where in the next thirty years she photographed many
political and national leaders, including Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah, Indira
Gandhi and the Nehru-Gandhi family while working as a press photographer. At the onset of the World War II, she started working on assignments of the Bombay based The Illustrated Weekly of India magazine which over the years till 1970, published many of her black and white images, which later became iconic. After the death of her husband she moved to Vadodara in 1973.
In 2010, the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai (NGMA) in collaboration with the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts presented a retrospective of her work.
Homai Vyarawalla took a number of memorable photographs during her career. Her favorite subject was Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.
Most of her photographs were published under the pseudonym “Dalda
13″. The reasons behind her choice of this rather amusing name were that
her birth year was 1913, she got married at the age of 13 and her first
car’s number plate read “DLD 13″.
In 1970, shortly after her husband’s death, Homai Vyarawalla decided
to give up photography lamenting over the “bad behaviour” of the new
generation of photographers.
She did not take a single photograph in the last 40-plus years of her
life. When asked why she quit photography while at the peak of her
profession, she said
“It was not worth it any more. We had rules for photographers; we
even followed a dress code. We treated each other with respect, like
colleagues. But then, things changed for the worst. They [the new
generation of photographers] were only interested in making a few quick
bucks; I didn’t want to be part of the crowd anymore.”
Homai Vyarawalla stayed alone, had slipped and fallen in her
residence on Thursday and fractured a hip bone. Her neighbours had
helped her reach a hospital where she developed breathing complications.
She had been suffering from interstitial lung disease which resulted in
her death at 10.30am on 15th January, 2012.
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