Ahmed Ali — Photographer
Ahmed Ali's involvement with photography goes back to the year 1932 when at the age of eleven he was sent away from Calcutta to boarding school in Ranchi and was handed a farewell present of a box camera .His mother Nellie Saxby encouraged the enthusiasm by sponsoring a superior camera and at the age of thirteen he ended up by converting this into an enlarger.
From then on it was clear that photography would be his lifetime career. The time when the Second World War had just ended and India had become free and was beginning to build up her own industries. As a result, catalogues and advertisements were needed to sell the products being produced and this brought a demand for photographs.
Ahmed Ali with his enthusiasm, dedication and experience was the choice of the day. Bengal had become a centre of industry and he found himself being summoned with his camera time and again to such places as coal mines, mica mines, aluminium plants, jute mills and tea gardens.
It was advertising which gave him the opportunity to diversify and he began producing commercial model photographs, his being possibly the first of the kind in India. He made thousands of calendars with pictures of children and beautiful girls to help sell products like tea, tyres, textiles and plastics; and he was soon travelling all over India to take pictures of steel plants near Bombay, in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal.
This often involved repeated visits to cover the laying of foundation stones and on into final stages of production of goods. His aesthetic sense was expressed in this commercial work and the artistic stamp of his pictures made him popular with the art directors of all advertising agencies. No less an achievement was when Ajit Mookerjee, the Director of a society called "Institute of Art in Industry" who was concerned with Tribal Arts and Crafts, sponsored him to lead an expedition to photograph primitive people in remote jungle areas of Bastar in Madhya Pradesh, now Chhatisgarh, way back in 1959. It was realised that the country's progress would soon be threatening these people's ancient ways of life and artefacts, and that it was important to record these before they disappeared. Ahmed Ali was chosen not just because of his photographic skill but also because he could cope with jeeps and out-door life as there were few roads in the area. Most of the pictures in this book were taken on that expedition and they do much more than achieve the intended purpose of helping to record a threatened way of life. This book "Bastar — The Lost Heritage" is a tribute to the Adivisis the real people of Bastar -captured moments frozen in time by Ahmed Ali
Compiled by "BASTAR — The lost heritage"
As the daughter of noted photographer Ahmed Ali, Nafisa Ali Sodhi was a natural, having inherited the finer nuances of photography at a tender age. She, however, went on to develop her own inimitable style, and this, along with her aspirational zest, combined to influence her life greatly. Nafisa's love for animals and their habitat developed into conservation and protection. Indeed, so strong was her love for animals, that as a young girl, her frequent tantrums before her father set out on 'Shikar', finally resulted in his giving up hunting altogether.
With her creative inclination having been ignited at an early age, the dreamer in her, combined with her father’s teachings has been a tremendous source of inspiration and influence to her life.
Nafisa, a Capricorn, an excellent photographer, best describes herself. “Being both a photographer and an artist it has taught me to always look on the positive side, to try and capture the perfect picture and to seize the moment. A photograph truly does speak a thousand words”. As an artist painting gave her the independence to create her own canvas. An activist for human dignity in India became an automatic process for her and she is a noted social activist today.
Nafisa’s name is derived from the Persian word ‘Nafees’ which means unique. “BASTAR — The Lost Heritage” epitomizes the foresight and generosity of a daughter and her father to share what truly has been for them, a unique experience.
Ahmed Ali lives in Kolkata. Nafisa is married and resides in Delhi with her husband and three children.
Expert - Text Research
Rosaleen Mulji spent her childhood in England and Ireland. She read Philosophy Politics and Economics at St. Anne’s College, Oxford University where she met her future husband, the late Sudhir Mulji who went on to combine the roles of business-man, economist and journalist. She taught at the University of the Philippines, at Selby Technical School in Yorkshire and at the Victoria Institution, Kuala umpur. She divides her time between England and India. She is involved with tribal affairs through the Nilgiris Adivasi Welfare Association and the Nilgiris Adivasi Trust of which she is a Trustee and the Secretary. She has written stories, and articles on education and language. She has four children.