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Who Clicked That Pic?...inspired by the life of Homai Vyarawalla

Updated: May 23, 2023

I’ve been sitting on this book for a while now ever since I bought it almost a week ago, rather gob-smacked.

The innovative approach to a picture book biography is accompanied by stunning visuals…clever and appealing all around.

I am particularly partial to picture book biographies as I find them the perfect length to share during a library session, circle time or to extend a topic in the curriculum.

Nandita da Cunha writes a fictionalised account of India’s first woman photojournalist, Homai Vyarawalla. I particularly love this non-linear approach to picture book biographies, because it distils down those episodes in the subjects life that could serve as little seeds of inspiration for young readers/listeners.

Nandita approaches this book through a fictionalised character, Pari, who is inspired by Homai.

Going back to a time when Homai was a young lady, when 1 rupee was a princely sum, when cameras were big and heavy, when camera film was precious and every shot needed to be well planned.

With only 10 pictures left in the role, Nandita takes us one shot at a time, through occurrences in Homai’s life, the scenes at a Ganpati procession, incidents from Homai’s life, her grit and strong principles with regard to her subjects, the preconceptions she had to face and the physical risks she took to frame the perfect photo, which she would develop and submit under her husbands name, using a clever trick to ensure that it was plain to see who had actually taken the shot.

The endnotes summarise the life of Homai Vyarawalla and take the reader through each shot, frame by frame.

The illustrations by Priya Kuriyan are jaw-droppingly, stunning and ever so clever. The palette sets the tone of Mumbai in the 1930’s, and as always Priya's detailed characters bring the story alive. Framing Homai’s monochrome shots against the background coloured hue, is pure genius and her darkroom spread, starkly spectacular.

Plus...endpapers to die for!!!

With themes of self motivation and determination, woman's empowerment, supportive family…in particular the men in her life, her creativity, work ethic and her disdain for paparazzi style of photography…this is a wonderful book not just for elementary age children, but wonderful to share and raise discussions with secondary school students as well.

In a world that is revolving around sensational photography, Who Clicked that Pic? is like the ‘shutter lag’ of old, a pause, that makes the reader dwell on the story of someone who paved the way for some of the freedoms we enjoy today.

Who Clicked that Pic?

Author: Nandita da Cunha

Illustrator: Priya Kuriyan

Publisher: Jugnoo Prakashan(Ektara)

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