Who could have predicted that a birthday gift of a Brownie camera would set Manobina Roy on the path to becoming a celebrated photographer?
An upbringing ahead of its time gave the young Manobina a fine education and paved the path to a strong and independent-minded future for her sister and her, supported by their progressive father.
Manobina Roy’s passion for photography led to her sister and her becoming members of the United Provinces Postal Portfolio Circle in other cities. At the young age of 17, Manobina married the famed cinematographer Bimal Roy but her engagement with photography continued. In 1937, photographs taken by both sisters were published for the first time in Suchitra Bharat and in 1940 their work was exhibited at the Allahabad Salon. They continued to win accolades. Along the way, Manobina began writing and both The Illustrated Weekly Of India and Femina published articles written by her and illustrated with her own photographs.
Manobina Roy’s forte was portraiture and her portraits of Jawaharlal Nehru, Vijayalakshmi Pandit and Krishna Menon are brilliant as is her portrait of Ravindranath Tagore, considered one of the 25 best photographs of Tagore. She favoured natural light, mastering the play of light and shade and preferred black and white to colour. The Brownie camera of a young Manobina gave way to Rolleiflex and an Asahi Pentax and finally a Nikon, a gift from her son Joy Roy. Manobina Roy documented the lives of her four children as well, until the very end and this exhibition is a son’s homage to his mother in her centennial year.