The photo archives of the French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP) started in 1956 and the collection is still being constantly enriched, fulfilling the will of its founder, Jean Filliozat, to build a database for the study of religious art in South India. All the photos taken up to 1999 are under the joint copyright of the French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP) and the French School of Asian studies (EFEO).


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. The major collection in the photo archives is from India (135620) and a smaller collection from Indonesia (641). 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. 80% of the photographs are taken in large format (6cm x 6cm) on black and white negatives.

The photo archives are classified by rows of well-kept wooden drawers holding the index-cards with references to the original negatives. The collection has thus been developed as a source of research on South Indian temple art that has been the major trust area of the French Institute from its beginning. This collection of photographs was created for scholarly purposes in the first place. However, lately, the archive is being consulted by a variety of people from different backgrounds such as officers from national and international law enforcement agencies, temple administrators and museum directors. Our Objective is to preserve and conserve the photos for the use of the present and the future generation.

Classification and digitization

Two small 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.

Digitization of the photographic archives has now been completed through the joint collaboration and financial assistance of the “Council General of the Reunion Island” and the “National Gallery of Australia” (NGA). This should greatly improve access to the photographs. Data about the photographs (such as date of documentation, iconographic theme, place, Taluk, district, name of the temple and image description) 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 the Internet.


The photographic archives of the IFP, which form the iconographic 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 their 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.

Please take a prior appointment before visiting Photo archives

Contact: K. Rameshkumar