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  Raja Lala Deen Dayal, Photographer

Lala Deen Dayal was born into a well-to-do Jain family in Sardhana (now part of Uttar Pradesh), India. While completing his studies at Thompson Civil Engineering College, Mr. Dayal learned basic photographic principles. He then entered government service by becoming an estimator and draughtsman at Indore's public works department. His photographs were admired by the Maharaja of Indore and Sir Henry Daly, a senior British Indian Army officer. These connections led to lucrative photo opportunities, and access to important political officials, including Lord Northbrook, the Viceroy of India, and the Prince of Wales (later George V), a frequent visitor to India. This national prestige allowed Mr. Dayal to open a commercial portrait studio in Indore in 1874. About a decade later, he was commissioned by Bengal Civil Service official Sir Lepel Griffin to photograph Indian monuments of particular cultural and architectural significance. His wandering lens captured temples, castles, and forts as well as 86 monuments.

Mr. Dayal became the official Viceroy photographer and in 1887 received from Queen Victoria the Royal Warrant of Appointment as Photographer to Her Majesty, which cemented his professional status. He was court photographer for the Sixth Zizam of Hyderabad, and also operated his own studio, Deen Dayal & Sons, which had a staff of 50. Mr. Dayal's photographs received both international attention and several awards, including a medal and certificate at the World's Columbian Exposition (1893). In Hyderabad, he opened a zenana studio that allowed Hindu and Muslim women to be photographed in a private setting, and employed female photographers and technicians to avoid and religious controversy (male photographers had to be veiled before entering a woman's residence). So solid was the Indian photographer's standing within the British royal family that his warrant was renewed after Queen Victoria's death in 1901. In appreciation for his acclaimed portraiture and inventive shadowing techniques, he received the official title of "Raja."

Mr. Dayal's increased work demands forced him to close his first studio in Indore in favor of an exclusive gallery in Mumbai, Raja Deen Dayal and Sons Art Photographic Salon (at 132 Hornby Road), in which no expense was spared to provide VIPs with luxurious accommodations for their portrait sittings. Although his son Gyan Chand oversaw daily business operations, it was the founder's artistic vision that elevated what might have been otherwise routine portraits into sought-after works of art. Raja Lala Deen Dayal died in Mumbai on July 5, 1905, but because of the efforts of his descendants, nearly 3,000 of his glass-plate negatives have been preserved, and currently reside in several museums worldwide. Hemlata Jain keeps her great-grandfather's legacy alive with the website that provides prints from India's most celebrated Victorian photographer to collectors and art historians.

2012 Available Light by Nicholas Sumner (Leicestershire, UK: Matador), p. 334.

2016 Local/Global: Women Artists in the Nineteenth Century edited by Deborah Cherry and Janice Helland (New York: Routledge), pp. 69-70.

2011 Raja Deen Dayal: Glimpses into His Life and Work by Jyotindra Jain (URL:

2003 Raja Deen Dayal: Prince of Photographers by Narendra Luther (Hyderabad, India: Creative Point), pp. 27, 54-55, 81, 86.

2015 A Very Old Machine: The Many Origins of the Cinema in India by Sudhir Mahadevan (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press), p. 194.

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2019-01-03 20:16:06

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