Prashant Panjiar – Veteran Photojournalist in India


A self-taught independent photojournalist, Prashant Panjiar is one of India’s best-known photographers.

The students play on the hill adjoining the Gurukul.

Based in New Delhi, Prashant specializes in reportage – editorial and documentary photography. A veteran in his field, he also works as a consulting editor, curator, and educator.

A fisherman with his catch, Veerampattinam, Pondicherry.

Actively involved in guiding young photographers in India, Prashant is one of the three senior photographers who select and mentor young documentary photographers for National Foundation of India’s fellowship program. He is also a co-founder of the Delhi Photo Festival, and the Nazar Foundation.


Born in 1957, Prashant is a post-graduate in Political Science from Pune University, India. During his university days, he developed his photographic skills working on photographic projects that focused on peasant movements and other social issues.

A farmer plows his field before the start of the sowing season.

From 1984 through 2001, Prashant worked for several major Indian magazines as a photographer and eventually editor. Since 2001, he has devoted himself to being a full-time independent photographer specializing in editorial and documentary photography. Prashant’s work is regularly published in leading magazines both in India and abroad.


October Photo Opportunity: India’s Festival of Lights

Lit candles at Hindu Festival

Celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world, Diwali is one of the most important festivals in India.

Candles lit on Ganges during Diwali

Celebrated between mid-October and mid-November each year, Diwali is an ancient Hindu festival known as the ‘Festival of Lights’ – due to the clay lamps that Indians traditionally lit outside their homes. The candles, lights and fireworks during Diwali give every photographer a lot to work with.


Believed to have originated as a harvest festival, today Diwali is celebrated for various reasons by Hindus depending on the region of India in which they reside. Non-Hindu communities also celebrate this holiday, again, for their own reasons. The main theme common throughout all the celebrations is the triumph of light over darkness, and good over evil.


During the five-day festival, homes, temples, and other buildings throughout the country are decorated with colorful lights, and large firework displays are held in many communities.

Snacks at Diwali

During the holiday, houses are cleaned, people dress in new clothes, sweets are exchanged, and prayers given – typically to Lakshmi, the goddess of fertility and prosperity.

India Festival

Diwali offers photographers a variety of subjects to shoot – from the light and fireworks, to the interactions of families and communities celebrating together.

People lighting candles at riverside during Diwali

Man shopping for Diwali electric lights

Indian Photographer Captures Fleeting Moments of India’s Street Life


Born in Delhi, Vineet Vohra gains satisfaction from capturing fleeting moments happening around him.

Boy playing with top
Boy playing with top in rural village

Vineet always tries to be ‘invisible’ and doesn’t carry a camera bag, just a extra battery in his pocket.


Although constantly looking for interesting backgrounds, situations and faces, Vineet says ‘light’ is his main area of interest.


Mumbai Offers Several Unique Photo Opportunities

Mumbai commuters
Black & white photo of Mumbai commuters (Photo by Rajarshi MITRA / CC-BY)

There’s a wealth of places you’ll want to take photos in Mumbai. Selecting which to visit can be a challenge for the traveler with only a little bit of free time. Here’s a couple of the most popular.

Gateway of India
Gateway of India, Mumbai (Photo by Jorge Láscar / CC-BY)

Although considered cliché by frequent visitors, the Gateway of India shouldn’t be missed by anyone new to the city. Visit early in the morning to get a shot of the monument without hoards of tourists around it.

Marine Drive, Mumbai
Marine Drive, Mumbai, at night (Photo by Madhav Pai / CC-BY)

Marine Drive, is best place to get a photo of the Mumbai skyline across a stretch of sea. Visit in the evening, and you’ll immediately understand why this area is also referred to as the Queen’s Necklace. Perhaps the most popular hangout in Mumbai, you’ll also find lots of couple and families hanging out here.

Dhobi Ghat, Mumbai
Laundry hung out in Mumbai’s Dhobi Ghat (Photo by Jon Connell / CC-BY)

The Dhobi Ghat is Mumbai’s infamous and huge outdoor laundry. Everyday, around 200 dhobis (washermen) wash thousands of garments that are then hung for drying on long lines throughout the area. This is a great place to get some memorable photos.

Plucked Duo
Flowers for sale at Dadar Phool Market, Mumbai (Photo by Meena Kadri / CC-BY)

If color and flowers attract you, Dadar Phool Market is the place to go. This flower market is located in a small gully lined with flower stalls. The shop owners are used to photographers, but arrive early in the morning for the best shots of this bustling market.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai, at night (Photo by bWlrZQ== / CC-BY)

CST (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) station, is one of Mumbai’s iconic landmarks. Opened in 1887 to commemorate the Queen Victoria’s 50th birthday, the CST was originally named ‘Victoria Terminus’. If you’re looking to shoot chaos, bustling crowds, and lots of stalls, all against the background of incredible colonial architecture, a visit to CST is a must.

Many first-time travellers to Asia, particularly those on business, have asked about easily accessible photo opportunities in the cities they visit. This post is part of an ongoing series, each on a different Asian city, introducing a few photo locations for visitors with limited time.

Lala Deen Dayal – The Doyen of Indian Photographers

Famous indian photographer - Lala Deen Dayal
Famous indian photographer – Lala Deen Dayal

Born in 1844 at Sardhana in Meerut in the United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh today), Lala Deen Dayal was a successful engineer in Indore, where he was Head Estimator & Draughtsman with the Public Works Department. It was here that he was introduced to photography. His skill with the new medium was noticed by ruler of Indore, Maharaja Tukoji II. In 1875, the Mahajara became his patron, and encouraged him to set up his first studio. Shortly after establishing his studio, Dayal photographed the royal visit of the Prince of Wales (who became King George V), greatly enhancing his reputation.

Tiger Hunter - by Indian photographer Lala Deen Dayal
Tiger Hunter – by Indian photographer Lala Deen Dayal

This success was followed by a string of appointments over the years that allowed Dayal to capture a unique photographic record of Indian aristocratic life not easily accessed by his British counterparts.

Maharaja of Bijawar
Maharaja of Bijawar – by Indian photographer Lala Dayal Deen

This portrait taken in 1882, depicting the Maharaja of Bijawar sitting cross-legged, surrounded by servants, is a example of Dayal’s portrait work at the time.

In 1886, Dayal was appointed as the court photographer to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad (an Islamic dynasty in India). Remaining in the Nizim’s service until his death, Dayal captured intimate portraits of the royal family, opulent palace interiors, and the pageantry of the times. In appreciation of his work and dedication, the Nizam bestowed on him the honorific title of “Raja”

Jain temples at Sonagiri near Dattia
Jain temples at Sonagiri near Dattia – as photographed by Indian photographer Lala Deen Dayal

Besides the Nizam, Dayal photographed various British dignitaries throughout his career. In 1887, he had the unique honor of being appointed as “Photographer to Her Majesty and Queen” by Queen Victoria. Dayal also received numerous awards in exhibitions in India and abroad, notably at the World Colombian Commission in 1893 in USA.

Dayal captured a wealth of images of both the British and indian ruling classes
Dayal captured a wealth of images of both the British and indian ruling classes

In 1896 he expanded his business and opened the largest photography studio in Bombay, which was patronized by both Indians as well as the British.

Photos of India by Lala Deen Dayal
Historic photos of India by Indian photographer Lala Deen Dayal

Dayal photographed on a wider scale than any European photographer of the time, as he moved with ease between the Indian and English worlds. His albums of India views and ancient monuments became very popular and were bought as keepsakes and gifts by both the British and Indian aristocracy.

It was not only in his portraitures and depictions of the lives of the ruling classes that makes Dayal’s work memorable. He also captured the rich culture and tradition of India’s architectural heritage – its palaces, temples, monuments, and forts.

Dayal passed away on 5th July 1905, and his work was carried on by his sons. His contribution to Indian photography has earned him the title of “Doyen of Indian photography”. Lala Deen Dayal was the first Indian photographer to earn international renown for his pioneering work in the field of photography in the subcontinent.

Photography’s Beginnings in India

Dancing girls from Madras taken by Nicholas & Curths
Indian dancing girls from Madras taken by Nicholas & Curths in 1870

Photography came to India around 1840, just as photography was replacing painting as the new mode of recording the world.

In the early years, almost all the photos taken in India were linked to the British colonial regime – either by subject, or by photographer. The photographers mainly were English civil servants in the colonial government, or employees of the British East India Company (colloquially known as ‘John Company’). Some were employed specifically to take photographs, while others were amateurs.

Photography was also considered by the East India Company to be the most accurate and economical means of recording architectural and archaeological monuments for official records. The company actively encouraged the employees to photograph, and record archaeological sites.

Although they were a tiny minority of the population, it was the English in India who also first formed the major market for photography in India. Many individual bought photographs as a visual record of their experiences in India, which at the end of their tour of duty they would take back to their home country to show their family and friends.

No definitive record of when the first photograph was taken in India exists, but it’s generally agreed that the first commercial photograph taken in India dates from 1844.

The first photographic societies of India were found in 1854 in Bombay and 1857 in Bengal and Madras.

Native Nautch at Delhi (or Shalimar?), 1864 by Samuel Bourne
Native Nautch in Delhi, India, 1864 by Samuel Bourne

Indians were also quick to learn how to take photos. The first to learn were probably those employed by European photographers as assistants. These Indian photographers began by taking photos for India’s upper classes. There was a growing demand among wealthy Indians for photos, and local studios were soon set up to meet this demand.

The first Indian photographer whose name is recorded is Nawab Ahmed Ali Khan of Lucknow. However, it’s not exactly clear when he started taking photos. Estimates range between 1845 and 1850. The earliest existing photo taken by Khan is dated 1855

By 1855, a course in photography had been established at the Madras School of Industrial Art to teach photography to Indian students.

Photo by Dr. Narain Dajee
Photo by Dr. Narain Dajee

The quick growth of photography amongst Indians can be seen by inclusion of 30 photographs by Dr Narain Dajee (a professional photographer, and a council member of the Bombay Photographic Society) in the 1857 exhibition by the Photographic Society of Bengal. Dajee’s photos differed from his British counterparts in that they included images of fakirs, snake charmers, musicians, soldiers and other Indians.

As Indian photographers began establishing successful studios, most of them made the majority of their money through commissions from affluent Indian families. However, a few Indian photographers also began selling their work to both the aristocratic families of India as well as to the British civil servants serving the British Raj. Lala Deen Dayal (also known as Raja Deen Dayal) was one of the most successful*.

*Stay tuned… a post on Lala Deen Dayal will be coming soon!

April/May Photo Opportunity: The Spectacular Elephants of Thrissur Pooram

Thrissur Pooram Festival, India
Large crowd at the Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival

Amongst India’s numerous vibrant festivals, one of the most spectacular is Kerala’s annual Thrissur Pooram festival. A photographer’s dream, the festival takes place on the Pooram day of the Malayalam month of Medom (this usually falls between April and May).

Mahouts on elephants at Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival
Mahouts on decorated elephants at Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival

The main attraction of the festival is the colorfully costumed elephants parading through town on their way to the Vadakkunnathan temple.

Mahouts on elephants at Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival
Mahouts and elephants parading through the town

The elephants are all beautifully decorated with golden headdresses, decorative bells and ornaments, palm leaves and peacock feathers. Each elephant is guided by his rider (mahout), whose costume is equally colorful.

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The mahout of each elephant carries an ornate parasol during their parade through town. When the elephants and their riders reach the temple, the mahouts pass their parasols amongst themselves, some while standing on their elephant’s back.

Crowds at the Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival
Crowds at the Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival

The festival’s activities are rounded off with folk dancing, drumming, and a spectacularly huge fireworks display that begins at 3 o’clock in the morning.

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Any photographer visiting India during Thrissur Pooram should definitely include Thrissur in their itinerary. While the crowds are huge and boisterous, you should be able to get some very memorable photos of the incredible elephants.