The Master as a Transnational Figure

Jawaharlal Nehru in The Soviet Union

The Master as a Transnational Figure

Jawaharlal Nehru in The Soviet Union

Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, arrived in Moscow on June 7, 1955. He was met by leaders of the Communist Party and the Soviet Government. The picture shows Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, and N.A.Bulganin, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R. at the Moscow Central Airport, NML- 60845 in Jawaharlal Nehru in the Soviet Union (Moscow: State Fine Arts Publishing House, 1955). Reproduced by permission of Nehru Memorial Library, New Delhi.

India’s Independence from the colonial rule saw the nation’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru emerge as a powerful visual presence. At the peak of his popularity, in June 1955, he made a highly publicised 16-day visit to the USSR. This visit, made in the backdrop of the Cold War and the impending Big Four Conference, was covered in detail by the Indian and foreign press, as well as both government’s official photographers and camerapersons. Paper addresses an official album made after this iconic visit to investigate the role of photography within India-Soviet diplomatic networks. Casting Nehru as the Master persona, it delves into the function of photography in recasting his image as an international traveller, a crusader for peace, a negotiator, and a friend of the Soviet. Considering India’s and Soviet’s differing political stance and international position in that period, the article questions what does the presence of these official photographs reveal about emerging trans-national networks and if there were there any deviations in this careful reconstruction of the Master and his ally.

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The visuality of the master is not motivated merely by the desire to stand out from the audience, but in a self-contradictory manner, it is premised on the audience acknowledging and providing photographic space to him.
Reading time: 20 min.

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