The plain title does not begin to do justice to the richness and diversity of the contents. The numerous lightly sepia-toned photographs, many full-page and one a panoramic fold-out, are especially handsome as well as informative as to Indian buildings, royalty and their traditional wear, ordinary Indians, ruins, and landscapes and nature scenes. But even with these, the book is more than only a distinctive album of vintage photos of India. Essays by art historians and critics go into various aspects of the project engaged in by native Indians and colonial British to record India in all its diversity and foreignness with the new device of the camera, as if to preserve India before it would be touched by the machinery and pace of the modern world.
Different native and colonial photographers were attracted to different aspects of India during the decades covered. Some concentrated on pictures of different ethnic groups; some on portraits of royalty; while others recorded the British administrative and military presence. With essays on several of the leading photographers, the book is also a survey of the field of photographic work done in India in the mid to late 1800s and into the early 1900s. Thus, "India Through the Lens" can be appreciated both for its exceptional, engaging photographs and as a introduction to the subject of photography in India.