Herself a Parsi, Sooni Taraporevala has documented her own community which resulted in an ethnographic portrait, Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India: A Photographic Journey. A rich compilation of photographs and text captures the lives, culture, and community of the Parsis, a religious and ethnic minority of India and South Asia who continue to follow the ancient religion of Zarathustra.
Parsis at prayer, at work, at home, at play and on their last journey to “The Tower of Silence” — these are portraits of a vibrant, if somewhat eccentric community. She took the pictures between 1980 and 2004, and to accompany the photographs has written a very witty and informative text. She explains how Parsis marry late, have few children and are sticky about marriages to non-Parsis “When there are only two Parsis left in the world, they’ll be sitting there and arguing about whether or not to allow conversion.” The most arresting part of this photographic journey are the pictures of the famous Parsis — industrialists JRD and Ratan Tata, conductor Zubin Mehta, Field Marshall Sam Maneckshaw, painter Jehangir Sabavala. The sheer number of Parsi achievers contained in such a miniscule fraction of the Indian population is truly amazing and recalls what Mahatma Gandhi is reported to have said about Parsis — “In numbers they are beneath contempt, but in contribution, beyond compare.” What Sooni Taraporevala’s book of photographs essentially succeeds in doing is bring forth the Parsi character to non-Parsi eyes.
Hardcover: 252 pages
Publisher: Overlook Books (October 7, 2004)
Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 1 x 11 inches
About the Author
Sooni Taraporevala is an acclaimed photographer whose first book, Parsis: the Zoroastrians of India: A Photographic Journey, documents Bombay’s small but vibrant Zoroastrian community. Taraporevala first came to the U.S. as an undergraduate student at Harvard University and later received an M.A. from New York University in Film Theory and Criticism. Best known as the screenplay writer for the films Salaam Bombay!, Mississippi Masala, and My Own Country, Taraporevala is the recipient of both the Lillian Gish Award from Women in Film and the Osella Award for Best Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival. Throughout this illustrious film career, photography remained an important outlet for Taraporevala, who turned her obsession with family photographs into a twenty-year odyssey to chronicle Bombay’s Parsi community. The resulting ethnographic portrait is Parsis: the Zoroastrians of India– a Photographic Journey.