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Jim Masselos, Jackie Menzies,Pratapaditya Pal (Edit.)

The Great Empires of Asia

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The prints are supplemented by informative and illuminating texts by Jim Masselos and Narayani Gupta, a consultant with INTACH and a retired professor of history at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. While Masselos provides the context to Beato's work, Gupta analyses the actual ‘ways of seeing', by trying to understand how the city has been viewed and perceived for decades. Reminding us of when these photos were taken, Gupta says that these images are also significant because they were the first examples of photography in and of Delhi. There had been romanticized drawings and paintings of the capital before, but Beato captured things as they were. Of course, when Beato photographed the Red Fort or Jama Masjid, he wasn't looking at them as historical monuments.

Substantial parts of Delhi were demolished or radically altered in the aftermath of the 1857 revolt and Jim Masselos' photographs capture the changed between then and now, both the obvious and the implicit. An 1858 photograph taken by Beato shows Jama Masjid being used as a field kitchen for British forces from Punjab stationed in Delhi post the re-conquest. The ridge, used as battleground, stands rocky and barren. The front façade of the Imperial Bank Building in Chandni Chowk is riddled with bullets. As Beato recorded the last embers of the Revolt, his pictures also contributed to some of the myth making about the mutiny, becoming a record of the memory and icons.

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  • Jim Masselos (Author of The Great Empires of Asia)

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    Beato's Delhi is featured in Penguin's re-release of the book by the same name. Reproducing his work, alongside 1997 photographs of the same sites taken by Jim Masselos, Beato's Delhi: 1857 and Beyond offers a unique view of a city long gone and sheds light on how Delhi has transformed since then.