Photographer to document monuments, landscapes painted by Gwillim sisters in the 80s

She is aware of the importance of photo documentation in today’s world. “Apart from documenting the events happening at the museum premises, I have also photographed outside programs like folk arts, temple festivals, craftsmen and so on.”
A few photos taken by Rekha.
A few photos taken by Rekha.

Chennai

After Rekha Vijayashankar joined DakshinaChitra as an assistant librarian, she got interested in photography. The folk performances, art-craft exhibitions/workshops and dance events that used to take place at the museum and the unique architecture and object displays at the museum allowed her to explore her passion for photography.
“I didn’t have any idea about photography. But I had this strong urge to photo document events happening at the museum so that the visitors will get an opportunity to view them any time they want. When I expressed my interest in photography, Deborah Thiagarajan, the president of DakshinaChitra and Indumathi Mohan, the librarian at the museum, supported and encouraged me. Though I learned the basics of photography, I received inputs from my friends, many of whom were expert photographers. Those days, I worked with an analog camera and had to wait for the film to develop to see how my photography has turned out,” says Rekha.
She is aware of the importance of photo documentation in today’s world. “Apart from documenting the events happening at the museum premises, I have also photographed outside programs like folk arts, temple festivals, craftsmen and so on.”
Currently, Rekha is working on an archival project called Gwillim Project. “Mary Symonds and Elizabeth were two British sisters who lived in Madras between 1802 and 1808. They were extraordinary artists. While living in Madras, the duo visited monuments, waterscapes, houses, etc, and documented them in water colour. These paintings play a huge role in understanding life in Madras in the 19th century. Deborah Thiagarajan asked me to identify and photograph places that the Gwillim sisters had painted for a project DakshinaChitra is collaborating with McGill University, Canada. The history of the 19th century, its places and people have changed a lot through the years — I was curious to search for related photos and scenarios of the Gwillim Project after almost 220 years and view it in today’s age. The project is nearing completion and the photographs will be displayed at the museum,” she sums up.

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