Digital images and online application of the photo collection

Investigator(s): K. Ramesh Kumar
Start date: January 2013
Axis 4. of the Indology Department /

The IFP disposes of an extremely rare collection of photographs dating back to 1956 and subsequently enhanced over the years. This assorted collection (the only one of its kind), consists of about more than 1,60,000 photographs. Ranked as the richest in India, the collection focuses on South Indian religious art and iconography including temple views, stone and bronze statues, paintings, architectural motifs, pre-historic rock paintings, palaces, jewellery and old heritage buildings of Pondicherry. These photographs, gathered from various States in India (i.e Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala) depict some of the most famous archaeological monuments in India.

The objective is to preserve and digitize the photo archives as well as to make the database and the digital photos available on the website for research scholars.

Materials and methods:

The photographs taken on 6×6 format black and white rolls, during field trips, depict temples situated in various locations within India.

In order to preserve the 60-years old negatives as well as to make them more readily accessible to viewers, scanning of the negatives was undertaken with a maximum resolution aims in order to facilitate consultation of the photographs. The scanned photographs (negatives) will subsequently be integrated into the Visual Basic database in accordance with the related matter. The scanning of the negatives with the negative scanner was time consuming. A recently launched modern technique to digitize the negatives with digital camera has been taken up which work is going very fast.

Digitisation began in the year 2000. Initially negatives were scanned using a Dimage scanner manufactured by Minolta. Negative scanners are inherently slow and scanning of negatives is a time-consuming process. To speed up the process, Ramesh Kumar, photographer at the IFP, and Pierre Grard, Ex-Director of the IFP, experimented in digitising the negatives using high-resolution digital cameras. The process is akin to recopying of negatives using a camera along with a choice of macro-focusing lens with minimal optical distortion. The negatives to be digitised were placed over a light-box and photographed using a digital camera fixed to a recopying stand.

The scanned images are integrated with MS Access database for easy retrieval. Efforts to make the database accessible to research scholars.

Main outputs:
– Digital images and online application of the collection


– Duration: 4 years
– Funding Agency(ies): Council General of the Reunion Island and National Gallery of Australia (NGA)