At 104, Pranlal Patel to debut photo exhibition of women at work in Gujarat in New York

The exhibition comprise of photos taken in 1937.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: Famed Indian photographer Pranlal Karmsibhai Patel is set to have an exhibition of his work in the US for the first time ever.

Patel, who recently turned an astonishing 104 years old, will have his work displayed at the Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, located in Clinton, New York. The exhibition is titled “Refocusing the Lens: Pranlal Patel’s Photographs of Women at Work in Ahmadabad,” and is composed of 30 photographs that Patel’s took around 1937.

A photo taken by Pranlal Patel.
A photo taken by Pranlal Patel.

Patel’s series was commissioned that year by philanthropic organization Jyoti Sangh, shortly after he had decided to give up his profession as a teacher and become a photographer full-time. Over the course of his 70-year career, Patel has taken photographs of such Indian luminaries as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, among others.

Born on New Year’s Day 1910, Patel became a photographer full-time at the age of 24. He learned photography from Balwant Bhatt, the son of his landlord at the time when he lived in Maninagar, Gujarat. His photographs are noted for having captured the change of India from colonial times to modernity. A vocal supporter of film-based photography, Patel has spoken out against digital cameras, saying that they’re of far lesser quality than traditional cameras.

Pranlal Patel.
Pranlal Patel.

The exhibition of Patel’s photographs will begin on January 30, and will stay at the Wellin Museum for some time before beginning a travelling campaign across the country through the end of April. Patel will not be in the US for the exhibition; due to reasons of health, he will remain in India.

In an interview to Estrade magazine, when asked the reason from his long life, Patel responded: “The mantra is simple. Forget all the difficulties and focus on work. And of course care of family”.

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