India’s architecture is deeply rooted in its history. Different cultures and religions have been refashioned by numerous invaders and rulers through the years, creating pluralism in architecture. Some structures have stood the test of time longer than others, and today present themselves as symbols of a bygone era, almost like a time capsule. As British photographer Christopher Taylor explores the interiors of imperial buildings in Mumbai and Kolkata in his series Institutions, he captures lost moments of colonial rule.
Taylor, a zoologist by training and self-taught photographer, was fascinated by India’s architectural brilliance ever since his first trip in the 1980s. He captured buildings that were centres of the British Raj for over 200 years, giving us a glimpse of life in a space that was once glamorous, but was gradually overtaken by dust and debris. Seeing his photographs in the current post-colonial context, there’s a lingering sense of tension that Taylor manages to capture as India’s colonial legacy struggles to coexist with modern traditions.
We see India’s tumultuous history unfold before our eyes in an eerie manner, and as stated by Tasveer with respect to the series’ exhibition, ‘Taylor’s photographs invite an intuitive connection with his subject, triggering a romanticised, fictitious memory of an imagined past, inspired and informed by the artist’s own fascination with history and literature, as well as the viewer’s residual memories.’
The artist’s statement reads: “A post independence attempt to erase the visible legacy of colonial rule by demolishing selected buildings proved short lived, and has more recently been countered by a movement to restore some elements of the city’s heritage. Just as Calcutta’s cosmopolitan origins marked a turning point in the development of Indian society, so now a paradox emerges as the memory of an imperial past clashes with the emergence of India as a self-confident global power… I wanted to glimpse behind the imposing façades and study at first hand the workings of the machine—the remnants of a British installed bureaucracy.”
Posted below are a few of our favourite photographs from Institutions.
All images are courtesy the photographer and Tasveer Gallery. Click here to see more images from Christopher Taylor’s series.
Words: Sara Hussain