Remembering Foy, is a talk by the conservation architect Vikas Dilawari at the Jehangir Nicholson Gallery, CSMVS. The event celebrates the release of the exhibition catalogue Foy Nissen’s Bombay highlighting the work of a lensman who was also a pioneer in the heritage movement in Mumbai.
Foy Nissen (1931- 2018)
Foy Nissen was of Danish descent. His great grandfather Georg Christian Kastrup Nissen left the Danish island of Langeland in 1857 for England in search of a better future. Once there, he found himself on a ship to India instead and landed in Bombay. Unable to make any headway with the British, he worked his way to Gujarat and into the private army of the Maharaja of Baroda. The family did well building a military career for themselves with Georg’s eldest son Ferdinand eventually commanding the Maharaja’s army.
Foy’s father Eric (grandson of Georg) seems to have moved away from Baroda and while Foy was born in Pune in 1931, he grew up in Mumbai studying at the Cathedral and John Connon School. He graduated with a Masters in Art from Christ College, Cambridge and worked for several years at the British Council as their cultural representative. His deep interest in the history of Mumbai and its architecture is reflected in the vast collection of books in his library and his intimate knowledge of the design and sculptural detail of its colonial past. Several writers on the city have acknowledged Nissen’s contribution to their work including Gillian Tindall, author of City of Gold and Suketu Mehta in his book Maximum City.
Though Foy had been behind the lens since 1962, his work rarely appeared in the public domain save for a few articles that were published and four exhibitions including a collection of his photographs that were part of A Solitary Moment: The Other India at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, 1982 and a second exhibition at Hull in Yorkshire.