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Illuminating India shows off contemporary and archive photography at the Science Museum

From Sweet Life © Sohrab Hura

Featuring contemporary work by image-makers such as Sohrab Hura, Olivia Arthur, and Vasantha Yogananthan, as well as archive images dating back to the 1850s, this huge exhibition highlights the history of the medium and the country

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Indian independence, and London’s Science Museum is celebrating with two major shows – one celebrating photography on the subcontinent, the other its many innovations in science and technology.

Illuminating India: Photography 1857-2017, is the first exhibition to document the history of photography in India, and includes both archive and contemporary work. It includes images by India’s first known photographer Ahmad Ali Khan, pioneering art photographer Marahaja Ram Singh II, the country’s first female photojournalist, Homai Vyarawalla; and award-winning contemporary photographers such Magnum’s Sohrab Hura. It also includes images of India taken by non-Indians, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Werner Bischof, Margaret Bourke White, Lucien Hervé, Mitch Epstein, Vasantha Yogananthan, and Olivia Arthur.

Anwesh Kumar Sahoo former Mr Gay India, photographed on Juhu Beach, India, 2017 © Olivia Arthur/Magnum Photos

Lovebird, Ramtek, Maharashtra, India, 2015, from the series A Myth of Two Souls (2013 -) © Vasantha Yogananthan

Many of the works on display are on show for the first time in the UK, with works sourced from several international collections. Pivoting around key dates in India’s recent history – the Indian Rebellion against the British East India Company in 1857 and the independence of 1947 – the exhibition hopes to highlight photography’s importance in documenting the subcontinent’s ever-changing culture, landscape, architecture, and people.

The second exhibition, Illuminating India: 5000 Years of Science and Innovation highlights scientists, technologists and thinkers from throughout Indian history. Works on display range from the earliest standardised weights, dating back to the Indus Valley Civilisation of 3000–2500 BCE, to artefacts from India’s flourishing space programme.

Printmaker, sculptor, photographer and filmmaker Chila Kumari Burman has also been commissioned to make a series of artworks in response to the theme of Illuminating India, and throughout the season The Science Museum will also host a series of film screenings, workshops, panel discussions and live performances on India.

“India’s history and culture are built on a rich tradition of scientific thought and innovation,” said Ian Blatchford, director of the Science Museum Group. “The stories we will be showcasing through this vibrant season not only shaped India but had global significance.”

Illuminating India: Photography 1857-2017 is on show at the Science Museum until 31 march 2018. Entry is free. www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/illuminating-india-photography-1857-2017

From Sweet Life © Sohrab Hura

From Sweet Life © Sohrab Hura

From Sweet Life © Sohrab Hura

From Sweet Life © Sohrab Hura

Young Warriors, Sitamarhi, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2015, from the series A Myth of Two Souls (2013 -) © Vasantha Yogananthan

The Promise, Janakpur, Nepal, 2016, from the series A Myth of Two Souls (2013 -) © Vasantha Yogananthan

Rama Combing His Hair, Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2015, from the series A Myth of Two Souls (2013 -) © Vasantha Yogananthan

Party Field, Janakpur, Nepal, 2016, from the series A Myth of Two Souls (2013 -) © Vasantha Yogananthan

Cricket Match, Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2013, from the series A Myth of Two Souls (2013 -) © Vasantha Yogananthan

Boy Playing Girl, Janakpur, Nepal, 2016, hand painted by Jaykumar Shankar. From A Myth of Two Souls (2013 -) © Vasantha Yogananthan

Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, 1985 © Mitch Epstein, courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Köln

Lonavla, Meghraj Cabaret, Bombay, India, 1984 © Mitch Epstein, courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Köln

Shravanabelagola, Karnataka, India, 1981 © Mitch Epstein, courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Köln

Atomic energy plant, Trombay near Bombay, 1966 © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

High Court Chandigarh, by the architect Le Corbusier, shot in 1955 by Lucien Hervé © J Paul Getty Trust

High Court Chandigarh, by the architect Le Corbusier, shot in 1955 by Lucien Hervé © J Paul Getty Trust

Employees of the Tata Iron and Steel Company on their way to work. The industrial complex was founded in 1907 by Jamshedji Nassarwanyi TATA. Over the years it became the nucleus of a huge complex producing textiles, steel, electric power, chemicals, agricultural equipment, trucks, locomotives, and cement. Jamshedpur, India, May, 1951 © Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos

Nehru announces Gandhi’s assassination to a crying crowd, Birla House, Delhi, India, 1948 © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

Lord Mountbatten among jubilant crowds outside the Parliament House Delhi, shot on 15 August 1947 by Homai Vyarawalla © Alkazi Foundation for the Arts

A section of the crowds at the Red Fort with Jama Masjid in the background, shot on 16 August 1947 by Homai Vyarawalla © Alkazi Foundation for the Arts

Refugees exercising in the camp to drive away lethargy and despair. Shot in Kurukshetra, Punjab, India, a refugee camp for 300,000 people in Autumn 1947 © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

Muslim leader Mohammed Ali Jinnah holding press conference renouncing Indian Cabinet Plan and declaring intention to create Pakistan, 1946 by Margaret Bourke White © Time Inc

Wedding Portrait of an Indian Couple, ca 1920, unknown Photographer and Artist © Alkazi Foundation for the Arts

Imaginary Scene of Lord Curzon and the Duke of Connaught, Coronation Durbar, Delhi, 1903 by Vernon & Co, Bombay © Alkazi Foundation for the Arts

The Mystic Sign from the Art Studies album ca 1890, by Shapoor N Bhedwar © Alkazi Foundation for the Arts

Maharana Fateh Singh of Udaipur (1849-1930) cs 1876-1900, shot by Bourne & Shepherd, photographers to H.E. The Viceroy, Calcutta © Alkazi Foundation for the Arts

Unidentified Woman of the Zenana ca 1870 © Trustees, Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, City Palace, Jaipur

Self-portrait with studio table ca 1870 © Trustees, Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, City Palace, Jaipur

Self-portrait with dogs ca 1870 © Trustees, Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, City Palace, Jaipur

Self-portrait as a Shiva bhakt ca 1870 © Trustees, Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, City Palace, Jaipur

Maharana Swarup Singh of Udaipur (1815-1861), ca 1860, shot by court photographer Pannalal Parasram Gaur © Alkazi Foundation for the Arts

Bara Imambara after the Indian Mutiny, Lucknow, North India, ca 1850, by Felice Beato © Victoria & Albert Museum