Associate Professor of History Lisa Trivedi presented an invited lecture on May 1 at Utica College. Her lecture, “Seeing Women’s Labor: social reform and photography in India,” considered the complicated history of 70 photographs taken by Pranlal Patel in Ahmedabad, India, in 1937.
Trivedi’s talk featured small portion of the photographs she will be using in an advanced history seminar in the fall 2013. The seminar will engage students in the creation of the first exhibition of Pranlal Patel's work in the United States. The exhibition is scheduled to open in January 2014 at the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art.
Patel was an amateur photographer and elementary school teacher in Ahmedabad when a women’s social reform group, the Jyoti Sangh, commissioned him to take the photographs. The collection is unusual for this period in the history of Indian photography because of its subject: ordinary women at work on the streets and in the neighborhoods of the city.
Trivedi said that as historical materials, the photographs are “extraordinary because they capture a different view of women’s labor in the city than what is usually found in archival records of the state.”
The lecture addressed not only the impetus behind the photographs, but also what their composition might tell us about the claims of the photographer who took the images and the women who agreed to be photographed.