INDIA – THE DEFINITIVE IMAGES for DK / Penguin. 2004
When I was asked to edit this book of the most famous photographs of India that add up, in a sense, to a visual history of the country, it struck me that it was important to investigate which photographic images the average Indian knew best. Could we, by studying these images arrive at some understanding of our own nation? That seemed to be an interesting idea to pursue. Since there was no complete documented catalogue of Indian photography, the only way left was to speak to a cross section of people – photographers, writers, journalists, friends and even people I met socially - and coax them to remember images. I started with an initial small selection of images collected from magazines, books and individual photographers. I would show them around and seek people’s reactions to them. The exercise also helped to jog the memory of my diverse jury, and my list grew.
Photography is 163 years old in India. Many great photographers, both Indian and foreign, have worked in India, producing some exceptional images. Many of these, inevitably portray episodes and people that have, for better or worse, shaped our country, or at least our perception of it. These are the images, belonging to our collective memory as a nation, that I have attempted to bring together in this book. It is to me, a photographic Time Machine, through which we can journey into our recent past and arrive at some understanding of who we are and what we want to be.
– From editor’s note by Prashant Panjiar, 2004