There are 15 people taking a photograph at the same time; each has his own style. But there’s only one who gets the right moment and the right angle
– Homai Vyarawalla in an interview to The Hindu
Homai Vyarawalla (1913 – 2012), commonly known by her pseudonym Dalda 13, was India’s first woman photojournalist. She began work in the late 1930s and retired in the early 1970s. In 2011, she was awarded Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award of the Republic of India. Vyarawalla was known for widely photographing India’s transition from the British Raj to an independent country after its subsequent partition.
Hailing from Navsari in Gujarat, Vyarawalla moved to Bombay to pursue a diploma at St Xavier’s College before moving on for further studies at the JJ School of Arts. She was introduced to photography by her husband Manekcshaw Vyarawala, a photographer at the Times of India. At the onset of World War II, she started working on assignments for Mumbai-based The Illustrated Weekly of India magazine which published many of her most admired black-and-white images. In the early years of her career, since Vyarawalla was unknown and a woman, her photographs were published under her husband’s name. Vyarawalla stated that because women were not taken seriously as journalists she was able to take high-quality, revealing photographs of her subjects without interference
Vyarawala went on to work with the British Information Services and was a familiar sight in Delhi, sari-clad, traveling from one end of the city to the other on a cycle. She believed that the key to a good photograph is timing, composition, and angle. Her contributions as a photo-journalist include immortalising the moment when the first Flag was hoisted at the Red Fort on August 15, 1947, the departure of the last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten from the country, and the funerals of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Lal Bahadur Shastri. Vyarawala also photographed Queen Elizabeth’s and former United States president, Dwight Eisenhower’s visits to India.
She passed away at the age of 98 in 2012 in Vadodara, Gujarat.