The photo archives of the French Institute of Pondicherry began to develop in 1956 and the collection is still being constantly enriched, fulfilling the will of their founder, Jean Filliozat, to build a database for the study of religious art in South India. All the photos taken upto 1999 are under the joint copyright of IFP and Ecole Française d’Extrême Orient.
The photo archives of IFP now contain more than 160,000 photographs and are a unique resource for visual information about South India in the second half of the twentieth century, particularly its temple art. Among the richest to be found in these archives are images of stone sculptures, bronze statues, paintings, tower views, architectural details, wooden carvings on temple chariots, prehistoric rock-art painting, palaces, jewellery and carvings in ivory. Mention should also be made of its street-scapes of Pondicherry, much of whose colonial period architecture is under threat or has recently disappeared.
This varied collection has material from the whole of Tamil Nadu (60% of the images), as well as from many parts of other Southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. Monuments of major significance from other parts of India, such as Ajanta and Ellora, are also represented. The photographs are taken in large format (6cm x 6cm) on black and white negatives.
Classification and digitization
Two large alphabetical card-indices enable scholars to search the collection according to two classificatory schemes. One may either search by place-name, using the card-index "Sites", or by subject-matter, using the card-index "Matières". For ease of reference, each index card features a description, the negative number and a small-format photograph of the image in question.
Digitization of the photographic archives is now underway, which should greatly improve access to the photographs. Data about the photographs (such as iconographical theme, place, taluk, district and name of the temple) is being entered into a database specially designed for the purpose using MS Access. This data is linked to the images themselves, which have been entered directly from the negatives using a high-resolution negative scanner. Our ultimate goal is to make the whole collection as widely accessible as possible through Internet.
The photographic archives of the IFP, which form the iconographical basis of the books published in the collections of the IFP and the EFEO, have long been consulted by research scholars from all over the world and we have long been supplying prints for personal study and for scholarly publications.
All requests for supply of photographs belonging to the IFP should be made by sending us the completed Copyright Form
Photo Archives Digital Database
Categorisation of Photo Archives
1. Major Categories
: The completed database is grouped down to 14 major categories; a small description is given under each group: i) Siva and Siva associated, ii) Vishnu and Vishnu associated, iii) Brahma and associated, iv) God and Goddess associated, v) Buddha, vi) Jain and associated, vii) Demi Gods, viii) Epics (Ramayana and Mahabharatha), ix) Temple associated, x) Veda / associated, xi) Buildings and associated, xii) Historic monuments / Evidences, xiii) Reproduction and xiv) Divers (Miscellaneous).
The following documents can be consulted for easy searching:
2. State / Districtwise Collection
: The major collection in the photo archives is from India (135620) and a smaller collection from Indonesia (641). The collection is further sub-grouped under state and district.
3. Deities and architecture
: The total collection is grouped under different deities and architectural information to highlight the collection.
4. Individual character Description
: The total collection is grouped under iconography, architecture, temple associated, historical and archaeological. A small description is given in each character.
5. Places and Monuments
: The place and monumentwise total photographs are grouped in this category.