vintage indian photograph colour

The shimmer of gold. Swathes of emerald, turquoise and the bright orange shade of kanakambaram blossoms radiate from the sarees.

I love the way that so many hand-coloured Indian photograph focus on adorning the adornments.

Jewellery shines. Jasmine flowers, ever-present in a South Indian woman’s hair, gleam bright white. Forehead markings – sometimes decorative, sometimes religious – pop out in red or white. Sarees, India’s most beautiful gift to world fashion heritage, glisten through the ages with a spectrum of colour. Men, who – as is often the case in real life – are less showy, receive subtler highlights. Perhaps a thin line of colour along the white dhoti, the Indian man’s formal white sarong, or a metallic sheen to a wristwatch.

The two women featured here posed for their portrait in the town of Rajapalayam in Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu, close to the Kerala border. One of my closest friends of my Indian days was from a small village in the district, and I have fond memories of visiting his home and getting to meet his family and see him in his element. He was in fact one of my main Tamil teachers, albeit indirectly, as he spoke no English so our conversations were limited to the beautiful trill that is the Tamil language.

We’ve lost touch. The last time we heard from each other, he was headed to Chennai to do a Master’s degree in Tamil Literature, but that was a decade ago and now we have no way of contacting each other. He was a brilliant fiction writer, and I sometimes search cyberspace for him to see if he pursued a literary career and that perchance something he penned has made its way to the pages of the internet.


hand coloured photo


hand coloured photograph


photo studio