Also known as Raja Deen Dayal, Lala Deen Dayal was a pioneer Indian court photographer in India during the rule of the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad. He was born in 1844 in the Sardhana district of Uttar Pradesh. He was an engineer who took up photography during 1864 and was later commissioned to photograph the Governor General's tour of Central India. In 1868 Deen Dayal founded the firm Lala Deen Dayal & Sons, and was subsequently commissioned to photograph various temples and palaces of India with studios in Secunderabad, Bombay and Indore. In 1875-1876, Deen Dayal photographed the Royal Tour of the Prince and Princess of Wales. In the early 1880s he travelled with Sir Lepel Griffin through Bundelkhand, photographing the ancient architecture of the region. He was also appointed the photographer for the Viceroy of India during 1885 and soon after his retirement the next year, Lala Deen Dayal moved from Indore to Hyderabad to work for the Nizam of Hyderabad who bestowed the title of Raja upon him. In the year 1887 Raja Deen Dayal was also appointed the photographer for Queen Victoria. The photographs by this extraordinary artist (1844-1910), present a gripping narration of the life and style of the late 19th early 20th century. Deen Dayal's clientele, naturally, consisted of the Royals, the British and the Brown Sahibs. The Maharajas and their Queens posed for Deen Dayal in their best attire. While the photographs of Raja Deen Dayal are remarkably superior in technology, in terms of their accurate reproduction, the perception of the photographer is also to be highly commended. On the one hand he pleased the rulers by photographing them. On the other, he did not miss the common touch. Some of his shots of buildings and temples speak for the fact that Deen Dayal had a keen eye, not missing on minor details.
In an age when 'quick photo' had not set in, the photography was a time-consuming and laborious process. Photo prints were made from glass plate negatives. Each negative had to be carefully prepared. The method used by Deen Dayal (prevalent then) to take negatives is called collodion process. When he started there was only wet collodion. But he graduated to a little more sophisticated dry collodion. This method necessitated the carrying of dark room to the site of photography.
Lala Deen Dayal was one of the first notable Indian photographers who did studies of the monuments of India as well as formal portraits. Lala Deen Dayal, as the only prominent native photographer, has left an exquisite photographic record of British India. He has his own section, presented under the title "Between Two Worlds" in the photography excellence book 'From India Through the Lens'. Most of his photographs here are architectural, though there are some landscapes too. The pictures confront the issue of an 'Indian' vision. One would be hard-pressed to say whether these pictures are any different from those made by a British photographer, indeed if the medium allows the possibility of such distinctions in terms of style. Eighty-nine of Dayal's pictures are printed by the carbon process to illustrate Griffin's book 'Famous Monuments of Central India'. The glass-plate negatives of Raja Deen Dayal occupy the bulk and pride of place in IGNCA archives. The collection is valuable as it is the complete collection of the original glass plates of the photographer who is a legend now. The period Raja Deen Dayal lived and photographed is one of the mot politically active periods in Indian history. From the point of view of historical value too, the photographs of Deen Dayal are valuable. In all, IGNCA has a breadth-taking range of 3000 glass plate negatives.
During his lifetime, Deen Dayal won many accolades. While the newspapers wrote about him, his work was among the exhibits at the World Colombian Exposition at Chicago in 1893. The 'real' recognition came when Queen Victoria granted his firm Royal Warrant.