Grandfather's Camera Provides Focus for Rishabh Aggarwal '16

In the early 1940's a young boy named Om Aggarwal left his home in Maur Mandi, India and with his family, boarded a dhow in search of opportunity.

Three-quarters of a century later, that man's grandson, Rishabh Aggarwal '16, received a Dean Rusk International Studies Program travel grant to "return" to India for the first time.

With him, the younger Aggarwal carried his grandfather's Asahi Pentax Spotmatic film camera.

"As I looked through the weathered lens of my grandfather's camera, my most treasured inheritance," the younger Aggarwal wrote in his grant application, "I realized personally the importance of origins to our identities and artistically the power of photography...."

An economics major, Aggarwal explored photography and art through Davidson's studio art program. He received the award for Best Digital Art in the 2013 Student Art Show and Best Sculpture in 2015.

"I aim to create a powerful narrative-based photo essay as a culmination of this trip. I will shoot predominantly in color to capture the vivid contrasts between the raw landscapes and vibrant colors that characterize India.... In a very literal sense, I hope to see India through the lens that my grandfather once did...."

The images in this slideshow were all shot on film with the old Pentax. They are paired here with excerpts from Aggarwal's writings before and after the trip.

"This journey took Om, my grandfather, to the small equatorial town of Nanyuki on the foothills of Mt. Kenya... At the age of 23, having reached adulthood, he went to Dehradun, India where in an arranged marriage, he met my grandmother.... Some time later, while living in my grandfather's family home, they faced a cruel and abusive stepmother and a father who chose to side with her. In the middle of the night, my grandfather left his home and embarked on a new search for better opportunities, this time with his new wife, less than fifty shillings in his pocket, and his precious newborn baby -- my mother."

View full photo descriptions by clicking on photos and visiting Flickr site.


  • June 22, 2016