When I told my loving Indian parents I wanted to pursue a career in photojournalism, let’s just say they weren’t over the moon. Their immigrant dreams of producing a lawyer or doctor were replaced with images of an idealistic artist filled with wanderlust. I was young enough and stubborn enough to follow my convictions, but it took nearly a decade for them to appreciate my unconventional path.
Little did I know that Homai Vyarawalla had already blazed this trail, decades before I was born.
Vyarawalla, affectionately referred to as India’s first female photojournalist, died last weekend, leaving behind four decades of imagery documenting India’s independence and the transition that followed. She was 98.
Upon word of her passing, India’s news media hailed her “iconoclast life,” citing her keen admiration for Jawaharlal Nehru, her favorite subject. “He was [India’s first] prime minister,” she recalled to Rediff.com’s reporter Sanchari Bhattacharya in March 2011, “the highest authority of the country. … Plus he was very photogenic.” The Times of India called her “the grand old lady” and mentioned her numerous accolades, including the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honor, bestowed on her in 2010.
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