#LBBPhotoStory: Go Back In Time With This 89-Year-Old Photo Studio In Mumbai



    Walking into Hamilton Photo Studio is like walking back in time. You meet the big industrialists, the Bollywood actors and the evergreen dance troupe from Belgium. It has been 89 years since its inception and the legacy is still thriving.

    Frozen In Time: What’s The History?

    Hamilton Studio is currently being run by photographer Ajita Madhavji, when she took over it in 1980s from her father, a man she proudly declares is truly the essence of the studio. The studio was initially founded by Sir Victor Sassoon in 1928.

    Perched in a quaint lane at Ballard Estate, shadowed by rows of trees, the studio is as iconic and as legendary as the city Bombay itself. Why do we say this? It’s the stories behind the studio and the photographs.

    When we sit down to chat with Ajita, we hear of her fond memories, of her accidental but destined love for photography and stories of her father. From royalty to maharajas and the generals – they have all been shot here by Ajita’s father. Some of the names include Lord Brabourne, Lord Willingdon, and the Maharajas from Udaipur and Jodhpur.

    In fact, we’ve been told that her father, back in the day, shot B.R Ambedkar, the Tatas and other influential industrialists and diplomats as well.

    The Artefacts

    The studio space is huge and dates back to 1928. They have a studio inside with an ancient analog camera {the wooden kinds}. With a simple and sober background – the cream coloured curtains make for a very elegant photograph, something Ajita prides herself in. A Hamilton photograph can be spotted off from a distance and that is what Hamilton stands for.

    In fact, Hamilton is one of the last few studios that still works with hand tinting. A woman of many talents, she dabbles in photography, archiving, and managing the studio. Her staff is down to one other person, and she has taught him well.

    The Present Day

    Ajita is currently looking to convert a part of the studio into an art gallery. You can still go in for portraits {starts at INR 4,000} and have Ajita produce a beautiful portrait {passport, or life size}. Ajita is looking for interns as well who can help her with archiving and digitising the old negatives. She has a treasure trove of almost 9 lakh negatives since they started off back in ’28.

    If you ask us, it reminds us of Jack Johnson’s rainy day lyrics, ‘like a shoebox of photographs with sepia-toned loving’, as Ajita holds it all close to her heart. And if you walk-in, trust us, you’ll walk out with a sense of shared memory.

    You can follow them on Instagram here. If you’d like to intern with her, please email her at hamilton1928@hotmail.com.


    The studio can also be rent out for shoots.