PORTRAIT MASTERS
THE WEEK|September 12, 2021
Shooting portraits of political leaders is a delicate art, involving years of knowing them intimately and building a rapport
PUJA AWASTHI

In 1967, soon after being elected to the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly for the first time, Mulayam Singh Yadav wanted some portraits shot. He asked around and settled on Yadav Photo Studio in Lucknow’s busy Sadar marketplace. Mulayam walked around three kilometres from his official residence at Darul Shafa on Lucknow’s Vidhan Sabha Marg, in search of it. For many years after that—during his stints both as the union defence minister and as the UP CM—Mulayam would often visit the studio. Over time, the trust between the studio’s then owner, Ashok Kumar Yadav, and Mulayam turned familial.

So enamoured was Mulayam with the studio’s photos that he used to tell his supporters in different parts of the country to get and distribute his photos from Yadav studio. Remember they were taken at a time when there was neither e-mail nor smartphone.

Founded in 1946 by Ashok’s father, Mahaveer Prasad, the studio is now intimately identified with the Samajwadi Party’s first family. Mulayam’s younger brother Shivpal Yadav has used the studio’s services, so have former UP chief minister Akhilesh and his wife Dimple. In 1990, when there was simmering anger against Mulayam for ordering the firing on the kar sevaks at Ayodhya, the studio refused to remove his photo from its display window, despite the stone-pelting it had to face.

Rahul Yadav, 36, a third-generation manager of the business, says that an early understanding of socialism provided the bedrock for the studio’s loyalty. “My grandfather identified with socialist ideology, so his studio became a hub for like-minded people. Even during the Emergency, he had a photo of Chaudhary Charan Singh displayed at the window,” says Rahul.

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