Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at a USIS event - FAR2018-047.1.7_1


Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at a USIS event

Maker: USIS (India) Photo Lab
Medium:Gelatin silver print
Geography: New Delhi, India
Date: c. 1960
25.4 × 20.7 cm (10 × 8 1/8 in.)
Object number: 2018.90.1.7
Credit Line: Gift of Sneih Charan (née Dass); courtesy of The Family Camera Network
Not on view

In this image, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru stands with Richard Spear, leader of the Wayne State University Theatre Group, and signs a piece of paper. This photograph was taken when the Wayne State University Drama Department (Detroit, Michigan) visited New Delhi. The visit was organized for a USIS Cultural Exchange Program that was part of the Foreign Service Embassy.

This photograph is from an album that was compiled by Sneih Charan, who worked for the United States Information Service (USIS) India in the 1950s and 1960s. USIS, later known as the United States Information Agency (USIA), was a US agency that operated until 1999. Its mission was to promote public diplomacy between the US and countries abroad. The album contains 40 professional photographs, mostly taken by USIS (India) photographers. It includes documentation of the USIS program in India with images of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru (in office from 1947-1964), and his daughter, Indira Gandhi (who served as Prime Minister from 1966-1977) at special events. Other subjects include: performing artists, UN Youth training in the United States, the Nixon/Kennedy presidential election, and a theatrical production of The Hasty Heart. Many of the photographs help to capture aspects of Sneih's professional roles and networks. The album is illustrative of how professional documentary photographs are incorporated into personal family photo collections.

Sneih Charan was born to a Hindu family in Multan, Punjab (now Pakistan) in 1932. Her mother was a homemaker and her father was a doctor in the Indian Medical Service. She attended the Woodstock school, an American Mission School located in what is now Himachal Pradesh, and later a women’s college at Lucknow University. In 1961, she was awarded an East/West Center scholarship, which was based at the University of Hawaii in Oahu, where she completed a Master of Fine Arts degree in Drama and Theatre in 1963. Sneih’s professional career began with a position as social secretary for the Belgian Delegation to a United Nations Conference in Delhi in 1956 and then, a year later, she was an executive assistant for the newly opened International Cultural Centre. She was invited to run the Indian branch of the UNESCO Theatre Center, later called Bharatiya Natya Sangh, leading to her involvement with United States Information Service (USIS), where she served as the executive assistant to the cultural attaché of the United States in their New Delhi office. Part of her role was to organize shows for entertainers travelling to India as part of the Cultural Exchange Program. While in New Delhi, Sneih continued to be involved in the theatre community, joining the Little Theater Group (then the Unity Theater) and helping to establish the Yatrik theatre company. In 1965, Sneih emigrated to join her fiancé who had migrated to Canada in 1963. They were married soon after and had two daughters. While living in Montreal, Quebec, Sneih completed a diploma in Administration at Concordia University in 1979. Sneih continued to work in theatre, helping to establish a theatre puppet group, Rostringlo, which presented shows to community groups in both French and English. She worked with Rostringlo until 1992, when her family relocated to St. Catharines, Ontario.

This object is part of The Family Camera Network public archive at the Royal Ontario Museum, which includes photographs and oral histories, among other objects from family photo collections.

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