Hyderabad is well-known for its Nizam and Nawab Culture. They acknowledged Arts of many forms, photography being one of them.
For this project, I had a go at reproducing the exemplary representations of that time. Coordinating design, state of mind and postures and with the assistance of family and friends, depicted in these photographs, who belong to real Nawab Families
Check all Photos in Series

Some information about that era

  1. A sherwani was worn at all times
  2. Covering ones head was self-evident. Most common were Topi (cap) or Dastaar.
  3. Trousers under sherwani was called sherwani suit and was the most formal look a man can wear apart from the ceremonial attire
  4. Formal shoes or riding boots were worn on sherwanis. Generally black. Brown/Tan was practically non existent
Anything separated from these would be impolite and/or a fashion faux pas
Few portraits with dark sherwani and two types of  headwear
  • Made out of pure wool. Also known as Jinnah Cap in todays time.
  • Known as Rumi Topi or Turki Topi. With black trousers and all leather black formal shoes.

Many Nawabs used to carry their own personal swords. (In some portraits here a cavalry sword is used due to lack of resources).

Turkish influenced fashion including the headwear came into Hyderabad due to extensive friendly ties between Hyderabad and Turkey, or Ottoman Empire at that time.
One of the less known facts is that sherwani, One of the culture for which Hyderabad is known. Which is also one of the most common form of formal dress in Hyderabad, was not so common before Nizam, Azaf Jah 6th. In the times of 5th Asaf Jah, sherwani was a rebellious dress. Looked down upon by the noble. As it was a dress worn by rebellious and street mongers.

Some information I came across while researching for this project

Why didn’t people look into the camera?

Before cameras, the only documentation of personalities was through painting. And one of the qualities of master painters was to paint portraits in which the subject does not look directly at the viewer. This was to better represent the subject as a personality with unique characteristics. A view that the viewer may see when they see the subject in real. This same idea was carried into photography

Why didn’t they smile?

Similar to the previous paragraph, when photography made its ground, it was considered as the most authentic document of history in visual form. For this reason, in portraiture, when seen as a document, no subject would want their documented history to be with a smiling face. A smiling face portrait would be considered stupid
The fashion in those days mostly revolved around dark colours as dark cloth was easier to manufacture, maintain, was durable and looked beautiful on any skin
Now as we move towards the Modern era, none of these would apply, the classic portraits changing from looking off camera to straight into the lens, the serious face changing to not just smiling but making stupid faces deliberately. And from high quality cloth, full covered and layered clothing to thinner and less clothing
This project was just to photograph the little existing shadows from the past in colour. Before it all changes and we would only have black and white to view.


Lights & Modifiers

  • 2 Elinchrom FRX 400’s (These are BRX 400’s but manufacture as FRX in India)

  • Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octa 100 cm / 39″

  • Elinchrom Rotalux 90×110 cm Softbox


Thank you for reading through!