‘The Beautiful People' Jason Scott Tilley

The Beautiful People Project, began in 1999 when I made an emotional trip back to India with my Anglo-Indian Grandpa Bert Scott who was then 85 years of age. We are descendents of the mixed race children of British East India Company officials (usually men) who when arriving in India two centuries before married their Indian Brides.

My Grandpa was, like me, a photographer he worked for the Times of India from their offices in Bombay from 1936 until WW2 then he became head of the India army’s photographic unit through out the war. My Grandmother chose not to accompany us on our trip fearing her precious memories of India would be spoiled. She feared it would have changed too much. This upset Grandpa.

Grandpa was present in New Delhi on August 15th 1947 and photographed the hand over of power from Britain to India and then like millions of others he travelled through India with their two small children, my mother and my aunt and witnessed the full horrors of partition.

I began to make portraits retracing my family’s footsteps, responding to my Grandpas own photographic archive that was left to me after his death in 2003. I continued my travels across India until 2009 a full decade after making my first journey.

I made portraits of people as I encountered them visiting almost all of India states. This became a labour of love, the trip of a life time and a way for me to connect to the people and places I had been told about as a child. We were brought up to respect both our British and Indian heritage our family still has this mixed hybrid identity.

Half way through this project whilst on a journey back to the United Kingdom I discovered a book entitled The People of India. It was published in eight volumes by the India office, a decade after India’s First War of Independence in 1857, there are 480 pasted on Albumen prints.

So it appears not so many years after the invention of ‘the photograph’ the British used this new science in an attempt to classify and ultimately control the people and races of the Greater Hindustan, a way of securing ideas of Victorian colonial dominance. Using this work as a reference I continued my journey inspired only by the scale of that operation and certainly by the photographers who would have traversed India 150 years before me.

My work will now be archive and sit along side The People of India volumes at The New Library of Birmingham, United Kingdom.

The Beautiful People exhibition will be launched at The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum Coventry, UK September 2014.

For more information on my work my blog is:


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