On the 104th birth anniversary of India’s first woman photojournalist, Google pays tribute to Homai Vyarawalla with a Doodle.
Born in a Parsi family in Gujarat’s Navsari in 1913, Vyarawalla gained fame in the then male-dominated field of photojournalism. She carved a niche in photojournalism even as she wore a sari and carried her equipment bags on her shoulders.
Vyarawalla’s father was an actor in an Urdu-Parsi travelling theatre company. As his job required a lot of travelling, Vyarawalla got an opportunity to accompany him.
Her family eventually settled in Mumbai, then Bombay, where Vyarawalla pursued her passion for photography and enrolled herself in the Sir J. J. School of Art. It was there that she met Maneckshaw Vyarawalla, a photojournalist himself and Vyarawalla’s future husband.
Vyarawalla got a job with the British Information Services in New Delhi in 1942. It gave her the opportunity to photograph some of the prominent leaders of the Independence movement, which was at its peak.
In many interviews Vyarawalla gave she said that prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru was her favourite subject. She considered Nehru as the most photogenic faces she had captured during her professional years. One of her memorable shots of Nehru was the one in which he was warmly receiving his sister Vijayalakshami Pandit at the Delhi airport. This was one of the many photographs she took of Nehru in her decades-long career.
Vyarawalla’s photograph of the first flag hoisting ceremony at Red Fort on August 16, 1947 is iconic. Apart from that, the departure of Lord Mountbatten from India and the funerals of Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri were some of the other photographs that are highlights in her career. Her work brings alive the euphoria and the struggle for independence.
In 1969, Vyarawalla’s husband Maneckshaw passed away. His passing away broke her to the point of ending her illustrious career. Years later she moved to Pilani to live with her son Farouq.
Her contribution to photojournalism earned her a Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honour.
On 15 January 2012, her inspiring journey came to an end at the age of 98. She bequeath her life’s work to the New Delhi-based Alkazi Foundation for the Arts for documentation.