A photographer is indeed the primary archivist. Many lost and forgotten works of photographers have been found later, and in nearly all of such finds, the thoughtful ways in which they had preserved his/her works helped the fragile films and prints withstand the test of time. And as history has repeatedly proved, when these photographs are found, they are immediately showered with acclaim and value that they always deserved. Like archaeological finds, they are treasured for their invaluable aesthetical and historical information. But information about the photographers and the actual facts about their works become lost forever.
Often, photographers are unable to find resources during their lifetime to properly archive their works, many of which remain unpublished and unexhibited forever. In developed countries, the value of photographs as cultural documents and epigraphs, and in later times as works of art, has been widely acknowledged, and the State and cultural institutions take special interest in supporting photographers to create and preserve their works. In India, there has been little recognition of its true value except in the case of magazines or newspapers commissioning works. Infact, very little effort has been taken by the Government and most cultural institutions to preserve early photographs of India. Most of these were lost during the shift from analogue to digital, especially studio photographs. They were thrown away, or melted for their silver or collected by rich foreign collectors for a scrap price. The situation is no better in the art world, where artists who do not play by the market norms find it hard to even sustain themselves through art, let alone preserve their works for posterity. In all fronts, it appears to be a lost cause already as far as photography is concerned.
EtP is committed to establishing a Photo Archive, which would preserve the works of willing contemporary and independent photographers. The process of setting up a physical archive capable of housing the numerous prints and negatives that photographers produce has been slow and tedious due to the restrictions within which the organization is working. At this point, we lack the financial resources and the permanent physical space where an archive could be set up, but we continue to collect and categorize the works of Abul Kalam Azad, who is the first photographer whose work was offered to EtP for preservation. We have also collected photographs taken by amateur photographer Pulavar N Thyagarajan, who is presently based in Poompukar, Tamil Nadu, and dia-positives of Tiruvannamalai taken in the 1970s by German photographer Ralph M. Steinman.