While we are all amazed at the way International fashion magazines portray India these days, let’s look back in history and recognize when it all really started.
November 1956, Vogue, UK.
It was in the November 1956 Edition of the British Vogue when we saw India in a new light. The cover says it all but the entire set of editorial photographs have their own story to tell. The splendid collection made our eyes pop and go Wow!
Not only did these pictures have a unique character, they changed the way the world looked at India altogether. That’s the power of visuals. The difference that was captured by ace photographer, Norman Parkinson. Not only was it the start of the journey towards International tourism but also a gateway for International couture in India.
Back in the 40s, Norman Parkinson was a well known photographer and had been associated with Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue for a long period. He revolutionised the way fashion shoots were done with his edgy and refreshing take on models, women and style.
He was witty and had a sense of imagination that made him stand apart from his adversaries. The most unusual pictures taken by him were the ones he took outside the studios, in the open. The women looked more attractive and he could capture their raw emotions without any stated norms.
Norman Parkinson, striking a pose in all his glory.
At the time when travelling across countries was expensive and never thought about by magazines, Norman Parkinson decided to travel to India to give the world a different perspective on the country. There was an urge to explore the world and Vogue was ready to embrace this. It was the only way people could get a view on the cultural richness India had to offer.
In this ground breaking shoot, Norman came to India with a certain thought in his mind. He had a clear understanding about the paradoxical nature of the country and he wanted to capture this by combining colour, style, architecture, landscape and the real essence of everything Indian. His companions, model Anne Gunning & Barbara Mullen travelled along with him from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, posing in iconic spots while blending the different aspects beautifully to create these incredible images.
Diane Vreeland, the editor for Harper’s Bazaar was completely stunned when she saw these photographs and she said to Norman. “How clever of you, Mr Parkinson to know that pink is the navy blue of India.”
Pink is the Navy Blue of India – That’s the nomenclature that perfectly describes these pictures. This was actually the most clear understanding one could have about India as it still holds true. From design icons to brides, the love for pink is intertwined in our nature.
From the paddy fields to the boats of Kashmir, the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort in Delhi, these images had been a route in the minds of the readers towards India.
Here are the photographs that enthralled the world, shot in monochrome and color.
Anne Gunning wearing a pink Mohair coat by Jaeger. Carrying a pallu, while the guards outside the City Palace, Jaipur watch on.
Anne Gunning in front of Nandi, The Sacred Bull, at Chamundi Hill, Mysore City in a Christian Dior dress.
Barbara Mullen at the Amber Palace, Jaipur wearing a Harvey Nichols blue Shantung shirt and willow pattern skirt.
Barbara Mullen at the Red Fort, Delhi.
Barbara Mullen in a beautiful evening red and white gown in a Shikara, in Kashmir.
Anne Gunning wearing a yellow dress by Dorlinic posing in front of Mylapore Temple and the water lilies.
Wearing a red rose chiffon dress by Susan Small, seen here is Anne Gunning at the Red Fort.
Anne Gunning in a camisole-sheath and a polka dotted cummerbund by Horrockses at Chanelle, standing in a crowded Aurangabad market.
Barbara Mullen wearing an orange, black and white Emilio of Capri bathing dress while sitting on a boat on the Jamuna River, across the Taj Mahal, Agra.
Anne Gunning seen here in the chiffon dress by Susan Small standing against the Honeycomb marble art at The Red Fort.
Barbara Mullen seen here floating in a cotton mousseline dress by Atrima at the lake in Kashmir.
Barbara Mullen seen here wearing a white Organza dress with silver embroidery and moonstone-blue organza coat by Horrockses at Chanelle, pictured at the Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram.
Wearing a Gold Lame ball gown by Christian Dior, Barbara Mullen stands amongst the pillars of Quwwat-Ul-Islam Mosque, Delhi at dusk.
This was for the cover shot. The winter sunshine wardrobe.
Another shot of Barbara Mullen in a cotton mousseline dress by Atrima, floating at the lake in Kashmir.
Barbara Mullen wearing a rose-printed cotton shirt by Digby Morton for Simpson and slacks in leaf-green linen by Daks while she poses in the Paddy fields in the late summer, India.
Images Courtesy: Norman Parkinson Archives