Between the 1890s and 1910s, Indian photographer Shapoor N Bhedwar was prominent in the art photography salons of Europe and America. Bhedwar (Shapurjee Nusserwanjee Bhedwar) came from a wealthy Parsi family in Bombay and in his youth developed passionate interests in art and Eastern and Western literature.
He was deeply attracted to the Zoroastrian religion of the Parsi and its origins in ancient Persia from where his people emigrated to India in the tenth century. Bhedwar was also an enthusiastic theatregoer and wrote poems and plays although apparently none were published. He was initially more successful in sport than the arts, becoming a member of the first Parsi cricket team to tour England in 1886.
Bhedwar took up photography in 1888 in India to illustrate one of his own literary efforts and soon became obsessed with the medium as an art form.
Leaving his wife and son behind, Bhedwar travelled to England to study at the Polytechnic School in London in 1889. He also learnt from prominent art photographer Ralph W Robinson in Redhill, Surrey. He was soon winning medals in the Photographic Salon (later the Royal Photographic Society).
One reviewer at the time said of Bhedwar: 'he came, he saw, he conquered'. One of the artist's most successful projects was the series of six tableaux photographs The feast of roses, which illustrates the hugely popular poem Lallah Rookh. Written by Irish balladeer Thomas Moore and first published in 1817, the poem is a romance set in ancient India.
His most distinctive work is a series of images illustrating Zoroastrian religious life. Very few photographs of their religious ceremonies had ever been made public before this series as only Parsis would have been allowed to participate. The Naver—invocation is the first in the series and shows the initiation of a young Zoroastrian priest, the old priest calling on the Almighty to aid the young initiate in his work.