Anusha Yadav – Creating the first online visual & narrative archive of the Indian subcontinent

A photograph not only captures a moment in time but can also be the key to understanding the people, culture, society and politics of the past. It was this insight that led Anusha Yadav to conceive the Indian Memory Project – the first online visual archive of the Indian subcontinent. Anusha is a graphic designer trained at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. She is also an avid photographer. Her keen visual aesthetics and her passion to preserve the past are reflected in this fascinating project.

Birth of the Indian Memory Project
In 2010, the idea of the Indian Memory Project took root in Anusha’s mind. She worked tirelessly to bring to life her vision of creating an online visual narrative of the Indian subcontinent through personal and family photographs that individuals possess. Anusha shares, “When photography became an important part of my life, I started looking at photographs as information. Whenever we look at a family photograph, invariably somebody will tell you a story about it. Photographs are non-fictional by nature. They are actually the only visual evidence you have of the country and how people lived in the past. Thus, through photographs you can trace the entire history of a country or a subcontinent.”

Anusha was firmly convinced that her idea, ambitious though it seemed at first, could become an integral reference to our past. She leveraged social media to reach out to people and encouraged them to share old family photographs and the accompanying anecdotes. She says, “I actually social networked like crazy. With friends, I would insist that they see this and told them that if you like it, you have to post it and promote it. And yes, they complied and thank god for that! I used Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, direct mailers, phone calls, sms, Whatsapp….whatever came my way, to reach out to people and the response was heartening.”

A One-woman Show
The Indian Memory Project is pretty much a one-woman show and Anusha single-handedly curates all photographs, edits and compiles all content. She shares, “I edit everything that comes my way. I rewrite it, rearrange it, edit it or when people tell me stories, I record them and then transcribe them. Sometime people send me entire albums and I select one picture. Photographs are colour corrected but not photoshopped at all because that would destroy the way it was meant to be preserved.”

Anusha is extremely computer and internet savvy and this has been a tremendous asset to the project. She self-effacingly declares, “I am a bit of a nerd, so I know the internet, I know a bit of web design. You use things, you see things, and you customise it to yourself. Along the way, you also find people who resonate with your ideas.”

Passion & Recognition
At present, The Indian Memory Project boasts of 114 photographs with fascinating narratives. These pictures have been divided into various dynamic categories. Most of the pictures are black and white, which Anusha feels enhances their inherent ‘romance’ and ‘nostalgia’. She passionately claims, “This is a lifelong project for me. This is my calling. I was fortunate to have found my calling earlier than most. The project is free and its going to be for free for ever…that is non-negotiable. One of the reasons I started with this was because we don’t have access to archives and this is one free archive that people can use for reference.”

The Indian Memory Project has already drawn tremendous interest and recognition. It received Honorary Mention in the 2013 Prix Ars Electronica, International Award for excellence in Cyber Arts. Anusha was adjudged the winner of the Online Influencer at the 2013 L’Oreal Paris Femina Women Achievers Award.

Building a culture of preservation
Anusha believes that it is imperative for society and larger institutions to respect their past and develop a sense of archiving. She opines, “Certain institutions have history sitting with them but I found so much reluctance in them to invest in it, because it costs money and they don’t think that preserving their company’s history is that important. They are losing focus of the future because there is no essential root to refer to. That’s like having collective amnesia — you wake up one morning and you have no memory of what happened, you have no archives of your past, your successes, your failures, your evolution.” She asserts, “We have to respect our past and go back to archiving. This is not just a romantic idea; it is something that is a worthy investment because it is going to really help our future.”

At WEBO Power we believe that the past often holds the key to our future and we applaud Anusha for her novel idea and her crusade to preserve our past.

Interviewed By: Supriya Mathur, Team WEBO Power
Posted On: July 30, 2013


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