Photographing the Ruins of a 21st-century Exploding Metropolis: the Terrible Beauty of Meera Devidayal's Mumbai Mill Lands

by Mary Woods

This essay by Mary Woods discusses Meera Devidayal’s photographs of the ruined mill lands of Mumbai. It offers a brief history of the mill lands, including their significance to Indian independence, modernization, and the fall to globalization processes in the late twentieth century. Woods links Devidayal’s interest in the mill lands to a centuries-long idealization of ruins, spurred in part by archaeology and the picturesque style. Further, Woods likens Devidayal’s images of post-industrial landscape to the work of photographers in the American Rust Belt cities. However, a distinguishing factor in Devidayal’s work is her lived experiences with the landscape and her understanding of its complex layers of history. Devidayal’s photographs evoke multiple facets of the mill lands: their beauty, their lost potential, their hazard, and their opportunity for repurpose and community.

Mary Woods is an author and Professor in the Architecture department at Cornell University. She has published several books on architecture, film, and photography.
Woods, Mary. “Photographing the Ruins of a 21st-century Exploding Metropolis: the Terrible Beauty of Meera Devidayal’s Mumbai Mill Lands.” Inter Photography and Architecture Conference Proceedings, (Winter): 402-413.
Review by Lindsay Mamchur
August 2020
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