Pioneers of Indian Photography
by John Falconer
photography, India, colonialism, knowledge, history, Orientalism, Britain, technology
Monday, January 01, 2007 01:06 GMT
This historical survey, the text of a British Library catalogue, India: Pioneering Photographers, gives a nice sense of the way that photography entered the imperial agenda in India in the second half of the nineteenth century.
PIONEERS OF INDIAN PHOTOGRAPHY
by John Falconer
'India presents to us perhaps as fine a field as any single country in the world. It contains a perfect specimen of all the minute varieties of Oriental Life; of Oriental Scenery, Oriental nations and Oriental manners, and it is open to us to explore these peculiarities to the last degree while enjoying a perfectly European security. There is a deep and growing interest now felt in Europe in every thing Indian...' (1)
Samuel Bourne, "The Bailey Guard Gate, Lucknow", circa 1875
Thus the Rev. Joseph Mullens, in a paper given to the Photographic Society of Bengal in October 1856, expressed his sense of the inexhaustible photographic potential of the subcontinent. But while praising the way in which members of the recently formed photographic societies of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were 'endeavouring to collect information and to register experience respecting the peculiarities which attend the practice of Photography in India,' (2) he detected a 'want of purpose' and organisation among the amateur photographic community and proceeded to outline a comprehensive scheme of operations 'more complete and more systematic' than had hitherto been attempted. Little escaped Mullens' notice in this programme: astronomy, botany, medicine, the criminal courts and the prison service, public works departments - every branch of science and administration could benefit from the 'stern fidelity of photography' in furthering knowledge and 'promoting economy and efficiency'. Beyond such practical applications, he also envisaged the creation of a detailed record of the cultural and ethnic diversity of the country, its topography, architecture, trades and types, encompassing in effect, 'every variety of minute and distinctive detail presented by the country and people around us.' While Mullens' 'perfectly European security' was to be shattered the following year in the rebellion which engulfed Northern India, his photographic predictions proved more durable. In the second half of the nineteenth century, photographers in India, both amateur and professional, were to produce the most extensive and artistically distinguished record of the land and peoples of any country outside the metropolitan centres of Europe and America.
Mullens' words were to be echoed a decade and half later by the architectural historian James Burgess who, in the preface to a volume of views of Gujarat and Rajasthan published in 1874 (3), noted the 'growing taste ... slowly spreading among Europeans for works illustrative of the architecture, scenery, races, costumes, etc.,' ofIndia. By this time, photography had been feeding this appetite for over venty years and had largely superseded paintings, engraving and lithography as the prime vehicle of visual information about the subcontinent. Photographic studios - Indian and European - were by now well-established in the major cities and surviving albums of prints provide evidence of a flourishing trade in tourist views of the country and peoples of India. Much of the achievement of these early years can be credited to the early pioneers, the majority amateur in the first decades, who laboured, often in the face of great difficulty, to create a lasting photographic record of a vast and diverse land.
While the pattern of photography's growth in the Indian subcontinent broadly kept pace with developments in the wider world, local factors contributed to the creation of a characteristically Indian body of work: first, the very immensity of the country and the variety of its peoples provided, as Mullens had pointed out, a unique source of images. In addition, the presence of a small European population exercising political control formed a market for particular types of work which reflected a vision of the country and its people palatable to Western sensibilities and preconceptions, Indian photographers added a further dimension as they adapted the medium to their own cultural requirements. The development of photography in the subcontinent and the accompanying influence of these factors can perhaps best be understood if broken down into a series of convenient, if broad and overlapping chronological periods, each characterised by the dominance of particular themes in the work produced.
While there is evidence of photographic activity in India from soon after the public announcement of the daguerreotype in Paris in August 1839, this does not appear to have taken place on any large scale and definitely dated early examples are scarce. During the 1840S only sporadic attempts appear to have been made to establish commercial photographic studios in the subcontinent, and few of these pioneers appear to have survived for long, many doubtless succumbing to disillusion with a medium which, in inexperienced hands, often failed to live up to early grandiose claims. Photography became more firmly rooted in the 1850S and while several studios were established then, the decade was dominated by the amateur photographer, largely preoccupied with the artistic potential of the medium and unconcerned with commercial considerations. The mid-1850S in particular saw a remarkable efflorescence of photographic activity, typified by amateurs working the paper negative processes, the dissemination of photographic knowledge through the establishment of photographic societies in the three Indian presidencies (4), and active government sponsorship of photography. The finest products of this decade, seen in the work of photographers like Dr John Murray and Linnaeus Tripe, stand comparison, both aesthetically and technically, with images produced anywhere in the world in the same period.
A growing market saw an acceleration in the production of views and portraits by commercial photographers in the following years. But with the exception of a few outstanding and intrepid photographers like Samuel Bourne, the 1860s in general saw a lessening of creative quality as work became increasingly geared to satisfying a larger and less critical audience. In the four decades from the early 1860s to the 1890s the professional reigned supreme, and produced during this period a vast amount of material which filled the albums of visitors and residents, but which was only rarely of any outstanding quality. But this professional hegemony was now challenged by the development of a simpler photographic technology from the late 1880s which encouraged more and more people to make their own photographs. Photographers' advertisements from the 1890s onwards show a growing awareness of this trend, as many turned to the sale of cameras, films and other supplies, and the supplying of processing facilities for amateurs. The professional photographer continued to be in demand for the recording of important events and for some, postcard production made up for the loss of revenue from the sale oflandscapes and views. But by the turn of the twentieth century a new photographic tradition had begun to emerge and by the close of the First World War only a handful of the old professional studios remained in business. But for fifty years photography had illuminated the Indian scene from many differing angles and perspectives, and in the hands of its more inspired practitioners had created works of enduring artistic and documentary value.
Samuel Bourne, "Vishnu Pud and Other Temples near the Burning Gat, Benares", circa 1865
Artists and Amateurs: the Early Years of Photography in India
While it is unlikely that we will ever know with certainty who took the first photograph in India, it is clear that the European excitement over the announcement of the new medium in Europe in the summer of 1839 quickly transferred itself to India: descriptions of the daguerreotype process (5), sufficiently detailed to make practical experimentation a possibility, were appearing in the Indian newspapers by the end of the year (6), and scattered references indicate the existence of photographic activity from this time on (7). A convincing possible claimant for the title of the first photographer in India, is Dr (later Sir) William Brooke O'Shaughnessy (1808-1889) of the Bengal Medical Service, who as early as October 1839 had clearly been experimenting for some time with photogenic drawing, using the light-sensitive properties of gold rather than the more commonly used silver compounds. In a tantalisingly brief account of a meeting of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in Calcutta, members' attention was drawn to the 'series of experiments he had lately made on the art which was exciting so much attention at home - namely Photogenic Drawing - and his experiments were all successful (8). O'Shaughnessy clearly redirected his work in the light of Daguerre's announcement and by early 1840 had mastered the daguerreotype process (9). On 4 March 1840 several examples of this 'very simple yet very unintelligible' process were shown to members of the Asiatic Society:
'Several drawings were exhibited to the meeting, of the Esplanade and other parts of Calcutta which had been taken by him. In one part of the drawings a black speck was observable to the naked eye, but with a microscope of great power it would be seen that the speck represented a kite which was at that moment perched [on] the building - and though so small, even the wings and tail of the bird could, with a lens be easily distinguished so minute and yet true to life was the picture ...' (10)
This awed response to photography's apparently magical ability to reveal the incidental detail of the physical world with a promiscuous minuteness unavailable to the human eye alone, together with the lack of a specifically photographic vocabulary to describe the new phenomenon ('drawing' and 'sketch' would be commonly applied to photographic images for years to come), echo precisely the impact of the daguerreotype in Europe. A demonstration and explanation of the process at one of the soirees held by Lord Auckland at Government House, Calcutta in May 1840 attracted further interest (11), but this appears to have waned in succeeding years as the novelty of the medium wore off.
O'Shaughnessy's work (examples of which have not so far come to light) is one of the few pointers to photographic activity in India during this decade: difficulties in obtaining supplies offresh chemicals, the lack of skilled teachers and the many problems of working in an unforgiving climate (all of which were to be causes of complaint for the next twenty years) are no doubt largely responsible for the paucity of surviving images from the 1840S. However, amateurs clearly continued to work throughout the decade. Josiah Rowe, for instance, acclaimed by his contemporaries as 'the oldest photographer in Calcutta' (12) was active in the early 1840S and continued to take pictures well into the 1860s (13). A few short-lived professional studios also emerge in the early 1840S (such as P.M. Montairo in Calcutta, who in 1844 was briefly advertising his willingness to 'take likenesses by the daguerreotype process' (14), and the occasional image has survived from transient visitors such as the French customs official Alphonse Itier (1802-1877), who visited India on his way back from China in 1845. But it was the first appearance of professional photographers in the commercial directories at the end of the decade that heralded the arrival of the commercial operator as a permanent presence in the subcontinent (although the medium's uneasy lack of defined status is indicated in the 1849 listing of P. Schranzhofer's Calcutta studio - 'Calotipist [sic], takes photo¬graphic likenesses on paper' - under the heading of 'Artists' (15).)
At the start of the new decade, the work of the German calotypist Frederick Fiebig starts to blur the distinction between amateur and professional and also points towards the future dominance of photography over the other graphic media. Fiebig was active as an artist and lithographer in Calcutta in the second half of the 1840S, but in about 1849 he took up photography and in the next five years or so produced an extensive portfolio of calotype views, the majority taken in Calcutta and its environs, but also including Madras, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Mauritius and Cape Town (these last presumably made during the voyage back to Europe), a complete set of nearly five hundred of which, in the form of hand-coloured salt prints, was purchased by the East India Company for £60 in 1856 (16). In an article which appeared during a visit by Fiebig to Madras in 1852, the writer refers to views of China and Burma as well as India and states that Fiebig showed him '7 or 800 views of Calcutta and 60 or 70 of Madras, which had been taken with the greatest accuracy and detail' (17). No views of China and Burma by Fiebig have come to light and the figure of 800 for his Calcutta work seems unlikely (18), but the collection represents one of the earliest extensive photographic records of Calcutta and Madras, the former of particular interest since, unlike the majority of photographers of the city, Fiebig did not restrict his activities to the European section of the city bordering the Maidan. In his correspondence with the Company Fiebig states that his pictures were taken in his 'leisure time', but such an investment of effort and material argues a more than amateur interest in photography, and the account of his visit to Madras wishes him 'a large sale both in Europe and in India, for the sketches which he intends to publish' (19).
While the 1850S were to see the permanent establishment of professional studios, particularly in the larger urban centres of Calcutta and Bombay, for a further decade photography in the subcontinent was dominated by amateur efforts. Writing in the mid-1850s, the Bengal Army surgeon John McCosh (1805-1885), himself a practising photographer whose images in the National Army Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum are among the early examples surviving from the subcontinent, recommended the study of photography to army officers - 'in all its branches, on paper, on plate glass, and on metallic plates' - as a satisfying and instructive pursuit, by which 'he may make such a faithful collection of representations of man and animals, of architecture and landscape, that would be a welcome contribution to any museum' (20). Photography's qualities as an instructive pastime, combining potential for artistic expression with the practical merits of information gathering, were a constant refrain in the reports of meetings and exhibitions held by the photographic societies established in all three presidencies in the middle years of the decade. Bombay was the first, an inaugural meeting being held in October 1854, at which the chairman, Captain Harry Barr of the 8th Bombay Native Infantry, outlined the vast range of subjects available to the photographer, from the country's 'magnificent scenery - its temples - palaces - shrines' to the 'varied costumes, characters and physiognomies of its millions of inhabitants', whose peculiarities could only be fully delineated by an 'Art, of which the beauty and utility are only surpassed by its truthfulness' (21). In addition to their function as a forum for the exchange of practical photographic information, all three societies maintained an active programme of exhibitions during the 1850s, which served to raise public awareness of and familiarity with the medium, thus laying the foundations for the growth of commercial photography in the following decade. Meetings of the Photographic Society of Bengal were well reported in the local press and by 1857, under the patronage of Lady Canning, it could boast a European and Indian membership of around 120, the majority of whom were active photographers. In its exhibition of that year over 460 photographs were on display. Such activity not only served as a technical and artistic forum for photographers themselves but also, when the administration became actively interested in photography as a means of documentation, provided a conduit between the photographic community and officialdom. Official encouragement of and tuition in photography from the mid-1850s resulted in impressive work produced by officers who had taken up photography as a hobby and also found it professionally useful (22). Almost all the most distinguished names in Indian photography in the 1850s and 1860s maintained links with the societies either as members, committee officials or contributors to exhibitions. The work of probably the most accomplished amateur photographer in India in the 1850S, Dr John Murray (1809-1898) of the Bengal Medical Establishment, was seen at the exhibitions of both the Bengal and Madras societies. He had begun photographing in about 1849 and in the intervals of a busy career produced hundreds oflarge-format paper negatives, mainly of the architecture of Northern India and particularly of the Mughal architecture of Agra, Fatehpur Sikri and Delhi. Many of the original negatives survive in fine condition and demonstrate a very high level of technical skill, while his magnificent softly toned prints provide an unparalleled record of these sites (23).
Eugene Clutterbuck Impey, "The Cashmere Gate, Delhi", 1858
A Record of Conflict: Photography and the Rebellion of 1857
While the upheavals of the Indian 'Mutiny' or Rebellion of 1857-1858 in Northern India may have overshadowed the concerns of amateur photography, they inspired a number of photographers (Murray among them) to record the scenes of these cataclysmic events (24). The most celebrated of these was the Italian professional Felice Beato - in partnership with James Robertson in the Middle East at the outbreak of the rebellion - who arrived in India in February 1858 (25). By this time the military campaign was largely over and Beato's record was confined to portraits of the more prominent participants and views of the buildings whose shattered remains bore the imprint of battle. Photographic technology would not of course at this date have allowed the recording of the heat of battle even had he arrived in its midst, but the fact that the campaign was largely over by the time of his arrival allowed Beato to tour the centres of action - primarily Cawnpore, Lucknow, and Delhi - and create an organised series of views. Unhampered by the exigencies of military movement, this appears to present a conspectus of the campaign reflected in its material remains. This seemingly objective record of the topography of war begs a number of questions, not only about the selection of subjects for inclusion in what implicitly purports to supply a comprehensive narrative of the campaign, but in the very authenticity of the images themselves. Modern research has established beyond reasonable doubt that Beato's celebrated photograph of the interior courtyard of the Sikan¬darbagh at Lucknow, strewn with the bones of some of the 2000 Indians killed in its recapture, was a recreation rather than a record of the event: by the time of his arrival the area had been cleared of bodies, but in order to evoke the carnage Beato did not scruple to restore these grim reminders of battle to the scene (26). A contemporary review of Beato's Lucknow photographs, twenty-six of which which were shown at the Photographic Society of London's 1858 exhibition, noted the documentary significance of these views, but also praised them as vivid records of 'the pictorial romance of this terrible war' (27). If to the modern eye the historical importance of these visual documents remains undiminished, the passage of time has somewhat dissipated the evocative intensity of the images. But to a news-hungry public for whom these events represented an intolerable outrage still hot in the memory, such photographs were steeped with resonance and depth of meaning.
Similar responses attached themselves to the work of other photographers who, after the suppression of the uprising, used photography to record the physical imprint of the events of the preceding months. Robert Tytler, whose wife Harriet had been present throughout the siege of Delhi, learnt photography in order to help his wife with a panoramic painting of the palace at Delhi which she was preparing. After receiving some tuition from both John Murray and Felice Beato, and no doubt influenced by their work in recording the sites of the Mutiny (28), the couple produced in the space of six months a collection of over five hundred large paper negatives, which, when shown to a meeting of the Photographic Society of Bengal won praise as 'unquestionably the finest ever exhibited in Calcutta ... [embracing] every scene of the mutiny of 1857, from the cavalry lines at Meerut to the Residency at Lucknow' (29). Clearly as important in the writer's mind as their aesthetic qualities were the more immediate associations attached to such photographs as the 'painfully interesting views of Cawnpore, the Ghaut at which the boats were attacked; the well; and the side of the house in which the ladies and children were murdered' (30). Indeed, for the remainder of the century, the principal sites of the mutiny - the Residency at Lucknow, the well at Cawnpore, and other scenes representative either of the triumph of British arms and fortitude or the deepest Indian perfidy - achieved an iconic status: stock items in the portfolio of virtually every commercial pho¬tographer which find their place in the albums of almost every visitor to the subcontinent well into the twentieth century.
Samuel Bourne, "The Gate of the Hooseinabad Bazaar, Lucknow", circa: 1860
'The Great Object, the Preservation and Illustration of the Monuments of India
'Again, what resources in the hands of an archaeologist, are the views of buildings in distant countries! The marvels of Athens and of Rome, the inimitable richness of the monuments ofIndia, the bold architecture of Egyptian temples, can be kept in his portfolio, not modi¬fied and disfigured by an untrustworthy pencil, but such as they are in reality with their beauties, their imperfections, and the marks of destruction which time has engraved upon them. Photographic prints are mirrors from which are reflected the banks of the Nile and of the Indus - the buildings and the landscapes of all the countries through which the camera has passed' (31).
The British presence in India extended back over two centuries by the time of photography'S appearance. And following the arrival of the first English professional artist William Hodges in 1780, a steady stream of painters and draughtsmen visited India in search of picturesque and romantic subjects. Of these, the most famous was the artistic partnership of Thomas and William Daniell, who between 1786 and 1794 travelled the length of the subcontinent sketching the views that were later published as aquatints in their six volumes of Oriental Scenery. Accompanying such artistic endeavours were the scholarly investigations of men like Sir William Jones in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, who, in laying the foundations for the European study of India's complex cultural, linguistic and racial history acted as a bridge between the two worlds. And just as photography was destined to supersede artists like the Daniells in recording the scenic splendours of the subcontinent, so it was also to play a significant role in supporting scholarly investigations in fields such as anthropology, archaeology and epigraphy.
During the first half of the nineteenth century the recording of archaeological sites had been left largely in the hands of amateur enthusiasts and artists, several of whom produced valuable if often unsystematic collections of drawings and plans. As the significance and sheer volume of India's surviving monuments became more clearly apparent, so the East India Company's responsibilities in this area became more evident and the authorities began to encourage an organised approach to the investigation and upkeep of important sites and buildings. In 1847 the Governor¬General was instructed from London to institute a preliminary programme of listing that would eventually lead to 'a general, comprehensive, uniform, and effective plan of operations based on scientific principles', which in turn, it was hoped, would pave the way towards 'the great object, the preservation and illustration of the Monuments of'India' (32). This early initiative faltered in succeeding years, but renewed interest in the monuments of India coincided with the spread of photography and resulted in an upsurge of interest in the medium both as a means of artistic expression and as a documentary tool. One important example of the way in which photography was used in the task of recording India's architecture and archaeology illustrates this development clearly.
In response to the 1847 despatch, the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society had formed a commission to list and document the cave temples of Western India. On the commission's recommendation the Bombay Government in 1851 sanctioned the employment of the 'portrait and animal painter' William Armstrong Fallon, 'for the purpose of making accurate copies of the sculptures of the caves of Elephanta' (33). While Fallon's output was of high quality, and a number of his paintings were shipped back to England, it was soon realised that to perform such a massive task comprehensively would not only be hugely expensive but would make little impact on the huge number of sites meriting similar treatment. As the Court of Directors had pointed out in 1847, to illustrate the two dozen most important cave sites of Western India alone would take a single artist an estimated thirty-two years (34)! Fallon's contract was extended several times, but in 1854 the Directors called a halt to this seemingly endless project and drew attention 'to the use of photography on ?paper, to expedite and economise the labours of the Cave Committee'. For such work, it continued, 'we may mention that Captn. Biggs of the Bombay Artillery, to whom we presented an apparatus for the purpose, has satisfied us of his competency to undertake photographic works of the required description.' And in more general terms, the directors professed themselves keen to encourage 'the study of this useful art in any of the scientific or educational institutions, under the control or influence of your government, and we shall be prepared to furnish you with the requisite apparatus if you find it necessary to procure them from this country' (35).
Thomas Biggs (1822-1905) of the Bombay Artillery took up his appointment as architectural photographer in early 1855 and in the course of that year made over 100 paper negatives of Bijapur, Aihole, Badami and other sites in Western India. The resulting prints were enthusiastically reviewed and displayed by his contemporaries in the Photographic Society of Bombay, but his work was cut short by the army's insistence that he return to regimental duties. On Biggs' own recommendation, he was replaced by William Harry Pigou (1818-1858) of the Bombay Medical Service, who from December 1855 until early 1857 (when he too was recalled to military duties) continued the photographic documentation of sites in the Presidency. While the authorities in London had praised Biggs' work as displaying 'the highest merits as works of art' (36), his military superiors were more concerned with his availability for duty: in the cases of both officers, their work was hampered and finally curtailed by the army's reluctance to release manpower for what it evidently considered a non-essential activity at a time of staff shortages for military duties. The work of Biggs and Pigou was not wasted, however, for a decade later in 1866 a good part of it was made available through the publication of three books, illustrated with original photographs, on the architecture of Bijapur, Dharwar and Ahmadabad, an expensive venture only made possible by the sponsorship of Indian philanthropists and produced by the London publisher John Murray (37).
The same documentary concerns intermittently stimulated the Madras authorities, also attracted by photography's much-vaunted advantages of 'perfect accuracy, small expenditure of time and moderate cost' (38) but a similarly erratic pattern of enthusiasm succeeded by retrenchment followed the photographic activities of Linnaeus Tripe (1822-1902). Tripe had acted as official photographer with the government mission to the Burmese court at Ava in 1855 at the conclusion of the Second Anglo-Burmese War, and the portfolio of one hundred and twenty atmospheric views of Burma which resulted led to his appointment as Madras Presidency Photographer in October 1856. In a remarkable burst of activity during a tour lasting from December 1857 to April 1858, Tripe photographed the temple architecture of, among other places, Srirangam, Tiruchirapally, Thanjavur, Madurai and Pudukottai: the published volumes of his photographs (39) amply demonstrate an 'ambition to practice photography for some really useful purpose' (40), and contain some of the finest examples of nineteenth-century architectural photography. But as had been found in Bombay, a truly comprehensive record required greater commitments oftime and money than had at first been anticipated, and Tripe too fell victim to demands for his return to military duties, and to the finan¬cial economies of the Governor, Sir Charles Trevelyan, who considered the employment of a full¬time photographer 'an article of high luxury ... unsuited to the present state of our finances' (41).
While the work of both Biggs and Tripe was conceived as the production of a documentary record of architectural monuments, the implicit underlying motivations and preconceptions which coloured their work also played a significant part in their photographic vision. In a country the size ofIndia, personal knowledge of the whole country and its wealth of remains was clearly beyond the reach of a single scholar. Thus, when the architectural historian James Fergusson came to publish his 'History of Indian and eastern architecture' in 1876, he acknowledged that 'for the purpose of such a work as this ... photography has probably done more than anything that has been written' (42). But for Fergusson, as for many another nineteenth-century scholar, the architectural record was not primarily a matter of aesthetic history, but was, in the absence of extensive surviving written records, an historical document, 'a great stone book, in which each tribe and race has written its ?annals and recorded its faith' (43). And this in turn was of the greatest possible importance in the colonial context, as a source of information for those 'who wish to know who and what the people are or were, whom we have undertaken to guide and govern ' (44). Such assumptions inevitably coloured the approach of those whose task it was to undertake the work of photographic documentation. Biggs' reports of his activities reveal both the urgent need for the work of documentation as well as something of his own character. At one site, the changes which had taken place since an earlier visit were all too evident, 'the best sculptures having been taken away, and several of the best temples having disappeared altogether'. And while he was fully alive to the beauty of many of the temples, he exhibited a typically Victorian response to the erotic nature of some of the sculptures he encountered, pointing out that they afforded 'another proof of the early date at which the morals of India assumed such a headlong and downward tendency,' and noting that it was to have been his intention, had he remained longer in the post, 'to have applied ... for authority to have them effaced wherever I found them' (45).
In Tripe's case, the text accompanying his published photographs broadened their significance beyond architectural record, contextualising the images to support a positive message of material progress under British rule after the upheavals of the Mutiny in Northern India. Of Tripe's view of the irrigated and cultivated land surrounding Rayakota Hill, for example, J.A.C. Boswell of the Madras Civil Service writes in the accompanying letterpress that in the photograph 'everything speaks in language that cannot be mistaken, that a brighter day has already dawned in India' (46), while the ruins of the fort at Palakoddu were a solemn and picturesque reminder 'of the anarchy which generally prevailed' in earlier periods of Indian history, compared to 'Christian European Civilisation' which would 'make the influences of her Government manifest in their social, moral, and political advancement' (47). Thus photography could be used to point a moral in two directions simultaneously: backwards to a history of political decay and economic stagnation, and forwards to an era of stability and progress under British rule.
After the abolition ofTripe's post, the photographic impetus lapsed for a decade. In 1867, however, the Government ofIndia returned to the subject: instructions were again issued, drawing the attention of officials to 'the desirability of conserving ancient architectural structures ... and of organizing a system for photographing them'. The Governor-General was initially of the opinion, no doubt for reasons of economy, that the employment of professional photographers was an unnecessary luxury, and that the work could be carried out to suitable standards by 'competent amateurs' (48). This advice was fortunately ignored by the governments of Madras and Bombay who in 1867-1868 employed the professional photographer Edmund David Lyon to take a series of architectural views which retain both their artistic and documentary importance. As a preliminary step it was resolved in the following year that in future, every annual administration report should contain a separate chapter on archaeology (49). Lists of important structures duly started to come in, but the disappointing response to the request for photographs indicated that in most outlying districts the assumed reservoir of amateur talent either did not exist, or the results were not of sufficiently high quality to serve as archaeological records (50). In this initiative, photography was seen as one part of a more detailed programme of documentation, measurement, conservation and repair (51). To this end the Government of India authorised the establishment, on an experimental basis, of teams of craftsmen who would visit specific sites, make measured drawings and plans, take plaster casts of architectural details and decorations and produce a comprehensive photographic record. In Bengal, the results of the first expedition, to the Bhubaneshwar temples in 1868, were disappointing from the photographic point of view, but in the Bombay Presidency a more successful trip was made to the Ambernath Temple, where Shivshanker Narayan produced about thirty-five negatives which still survive.
In 1870, the often uncoordinated efforts to document the historical architecture of the subcontinent became formalised in the creation of the Archaeological Survey of India, the official body which continues to the present day to be responsible for the protection ofIndia's historic sites. Major-General Alexander Cunningham, the first Director-General, was fully aware of photography's place as an integral and invaluable recording tool in the Survey's work, and while professional photographers had continued to be employed on archaeological work from time to time, by the I870S it was becoming increasingly common for archaeologists to undertake their own photographic work. This shift of emphasis is most clearly seen in Cunningham's remark that he was 'especially anxious to obtain a photographer as assistant' in the survey, and the subsequent appointment in 1880 of Henry Bailey Wade Garrick, whose chief recommendation was his photographic skill rather than his archaeological experience (52). Perhaps the most noteworthy of this generation of photographer-archaeologists was Henry Cousens, who in addition to a long and distinguished career with the Archaeological Survey in Western India, was also a remarkable architectural photographer, whose images illustrate many of his own published works. By the time of his retirement in 1910, however, the use of cumbersome large-format cameras was giving way to more portable equipment and the elegant and considered compositions of the nineteenth century were making way for more informal and hastily produced views.
Unknown photographer, "Andaman Islanders Fishing", circa 1870
Face to Face: Photographing the Peoples of India
On his appointment to the post of Presidency photographer in 1856, Linnaeus Tripe had not intended to restrict the subject matter of his work solely to built structures. In a letter outlining his ?plan of work, he envisaged the creation of a photographic record that would encompass not only the architecture of Southern India, the natural products of the country and its topography, but which would also include 'illustrations of the races under this government, of their customs, dress, occupations' (53). This ambitious plan never in fact materialised, and Tripe's work before the abolition of his post is almost entirely architectural, but such a programme concurred implicitly with James Fergusson's view of the intimate connection between the archaeological and ethnographical record. As with architecture, the peoples ofIndia suggested a natural area for documentation and within a few years the creation of visual records of the diverse cultural and racial composition of the subcontinent had become a photographic genre in it own right. Whether in the service of the rising science of ethnology, or as the creation of'exotic' souvenirs of the East, photography of racial types became, alongside architectural photography, the most important of the 'officially' sponsored uses of the medium.
The value and meaning of such visual records, both as an accurate tool for comparing different races and as an artistic pursuit, had been debated since the early days of photography. After a slow start, this form of documentation was pursued in India with particular energy. When in 1857 the Bombay photographer Dr Narain Dajee contributed an extensive series of such portraits to the Photographic Society of Bengal's exhibition, the organisers noted that 'the castes and costumes of the natives of the country have not yet received ... that attention which they deserve, and which they will no doubt in time obtain (54). But by the time this was written, two Bombay photographers, William Johnson and William Henderson, had already started to make good the deficit, contributing a series of studies of the inhabitants of Bombay and surrounding districts to the monthly publication, The 'Indian amateur's photographic album' (55), a work issued under the patronage of the Bombay Photographic Society. Some of these photographs later found more permanent form in a two-volume work by Johnson who, declaring that 'photographic delineations of the numerous peoples and tribes frequenting ... Bombay ... have long been desiderata both among students of geography and ethnography, and the lovers of art,' published 'The orienta! races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay' (2 vols, London, 1863-1866), containing a series of portraits of racial and caste groups, using montage techniques to place them against appropriate backgrounds.
Johnson's book was the first photographically illustrated ethnographical publication to appear in India. By this time the subject had started to become a popular one among commercial photographers, catering on the whole to a European market more interested in exotic studies than scholarly precision. Yet the late 1850S also saw the growth of this type of photography in a more explicitly scientific context. The formation of ethnological societies in Europe in the 1830S and 1840S focussed attention on the need for reliable information on the races of the world and many of the controversies of the period had particular relevance to India, viewed by many researchers as the ?cradle of mankind. The comparative linguistic analysis of race, previously one of the main avenues of enquiry, was greatly displaced in these decades by an increasing emphasis on the physical comparison of racial diversity, so much so that by 1865 it was recognised that 'the appearance, which can so well be preserved and conveyed by photographs' (56) was becoming one of the prime avenues of ethnological investigation.
The application and development of such theories in India is perhaps most clearly seen in the publishing history of 'The People of India', a monumental eight-volume work published between 1868 and 1875 and containing nearly five hundred albumen print copy photographs, pasted in with detailed descriptions of the subjects largely written by Captain P. Meadows Taylor. In a memorandum urging the publication of this work in 1863, John William Kaye had written of the value of such photographic publications, as being able to 'furnish a permanent and more extensively available record of a most interesting and effective effort on the part of the Indian Government to extend our knowledge of our fellow subjects in the east - bringing us so to speak face to face with them' (57).
The preface to the work states that it was originally inspired by the amateur photographic interests of Lord and Lady Canning, who wished to make a collection of 'photographic illustrations which might recall to their memories the peculiarities ofIndian life ... Officers of the Indian services, who had made themselves acquainted with the principles and practice of photography, encouraged ?and patronised by the Governor-General, went forth, and traversed the land in search of interesting subjects' (58). The number of photographs obtained soon exceeded the demands of a private collection, 'but Lord Canning felt that its importance was sufficient to warrant official sanction and development' and the collection eventually took the form of a published work.
Using prints made from copy negatives, and produced under the editorship of John Forbes Watson and John William Kaye of the India Museum in London, the completed volumes featured the work of some of the most distinguished amateur photographers working in India at the time. The majority of the contributors to the volumes were, apart from a few commercial photographers, generally officers in the civil or military employment of the government and this in itself indicates some of the assumptions implicit in the creation of such a work. Among those named as supplying photographs Willoughby Wallace Hooper, Shepherd and Robertson, Benjamin Simpson, H.C.B. Tanner, C.C. Taylor and James Waterhouse are the most prominent.
To the British in India the fullness of such ethnographical compilations had a clearly political as well as scientific purpose, and the editors' preface outlining the genesis of the volumes was a hugely oversimplified account of a project which for the most part took place after Canning's death in 1862. While the Governor-General and his wife certainly endorsed the collection of such material and may have initiated it, the project really dates from the circular issued to provincial administrations in 1861, soliciting photographs and information on racial types which were eventually to be sent to the London Exhibition of 1862 (59). In order to gather this material at short notice, a number of officers were seconded to photographic duties for periods of up to a year.
Dr Simpson was granted several periods ofleave to visit and photograph the hill tribes of northeastern India, and these portraits were among the eighty photographs which secured him a gold medal at the London International Exhibition in 1862. In Central India Willoughby Wallace Hooper of the Madras Cavalry was released from his usual duties to photograph the tribespeople of Central India, as was James Waterhouse, who between December 1861 and December 1862 travelled around present day Madhya Pradesh photographing groups and individuals. Waterhouse's detailed narrative of his travels supplies a fascinating account of the peculiar difficulties to which the Indian photographer in the field was subject (60). In addition to often uncooperative or uncomprehending subjects, who did not appreciate the necessity to remain still for the duration of the exposure, Waterhouse had to contend with temperatures which, besides being personally debilitating, dried his collodion plates before he could use them and often cracked his negatives if he tried to print from them in the fierce Indian sun: at Mandleshwar in late May, for instance, the thermometer in his darkroom registered 92 degrees Fahrenheit at seven o'clock in the morning. During this trip Waterhouse estimated that on average he had four failures for every successful photograph and not uncommonly re-took a portrait up to nine times before getting a satisfactory negative. Chemical supplies were irregular, while the rigours of rough travelling damaged his camera (61). Only at Bhopal, where he remained for most of November, did he achieve wholly satisfactory results, being received by the Begum with great enthusiasm. Intensely pro-British, she entered fully into the spirit of the photographic sessions:
'I used to go up every morning [to the palace] at 6 a.m. and return at 11 or 12, and was taking pictures all the time. I was very successful, indeed, and took nearly 40 negatives without a failure. The Begum dressed herself, her daughter, and Madame Doolan [a Christian member of the Begum's household] in all the fashions of native costume in order that I might get photographs of the dress of native ladies. At Bhopal I was received with more civility than at any other place I visited, except, perhaps, See¬tamhow [Sitamau]. I printed a great many prints during my stay at Bhopal, as I was in perfect quiet, alone, and uninterrupted' (62).
Although only a small proportion of the material collected in this way arrived in time for display, it set in train a much more extensive official attempt to gather photographs and data in the following years, an attempt firmly rooted in a sense of a secret and unknown India, ignorance of which had played a part in the upsurge of violent rebellion in the previous decade. Knowledge was an aspect of control and the preface of 'The People of India' hinted at the need for better understanding and therefore better government of the population after the upheavals of 1857. Indeed, the letterpress accompanying the photographs tended to describe and emphasize such factors as political reliability or social docility as much as physical attributes. John Forbes Watson, in a paper advocating the systematic compilation of information about India, also saw the collection of ethnographical illustrations as a complementary activity to the Archaeological Survey, and again emphasised both its importance as a means of gaining a 'moral hold' on the population and the speed with which this work must be carried out, for, he pointed out, 'no time should be lost in securing the traces of many tribes now fast disappearing or losing their distinctive characteristics. This applies mainly to the aboriginal part of the population, to whom roads and railways and the extension of a regular Government now makes access possible' (63). Thus, for many nineteenth-century theorists and researchers, the importance of the study of ethnology and the creation of photographic records rested both on its 'true political value' and its 'eventual humanitarian influences' (64).
This purportedly rigorously 'scientific' application of photography to ethnographical research is perhaps most fully illustrated in the work of Maurice Vidal Portman (1860-1935), an administrator in the Andaman Islands in the closing decade of the century. Inhabited as they were by natives who had had little contact with either Europeans or the mainland, the Andaman Islands seemed an ideal laboratory to study man in what was then considered his most 'savage' state. European contacts increased with the building of a penal settlement to accommodate those sentenced after the Indian Mutiny and from the 1860s onwards parties of Andaman Islanders were often brought across to Calcutta to be shown the sights, paraded at meetings of the Asiatic Society and photographed for the benefit of science. Thus the necessarily conflicting aims of the scientist and the administrator - the one looking for man untainted by European contact, the latter attempting to incorporate him into the colonial state as swiftly as possible - were resolved as far as was possible by the photographer, recording life and customs before they were irrevocably altered. In 1890 Portman continued in this tradition by offering to make for the British Museum 'a series of photographs of the Andaman aborigines, in their different occupations and modes of life ... so clearly, that with the assistance of the finished articles now in the British Museum, it would be possible for a European workman to imitate the mode of work' (65). Portman himself showed a sorrowful awareness of the fact that such a photographic record was necessary because of the destructive results of Euro¬pean colonisation - 'the air of the outside world' which shattered the fragile cultural equilibrium of the islands. Resigned to the eventual disappearance of a unique race, photography functioned as both scientific record and memorial.
Samuel Bourne, "Darjieling", circa 1875
Samuel Bourne in Search of the Picturesque
If officially sponsored photography in the fields of architecture and ethnology had created an extensive archive of visual information about the subcontinent, the steadily growing dominance of commercial photography from the 1860s onwards saw a loss of that freshness of vision which, married to the wonderful expressiveness and subtlety of calotype photography, had produced such powerful work for a few short years (66). In a few cases, however, technical skill and artistic vision, combined with a vigorous commercial energy, combined to produce work of comparable stature. Such qualities characterise the work of the former Nottingham bank clerk Samuel Bourne (1834-1912), whose well-documented career in India laid the foundations of a not inconsiderable commercial fortune.
Bourne, who had taken up photography in about 1854, had by the end of the decade established himself as an amateur photographer of note with a passion for the landscapes of Britain's wilder country, 'the stupendous and lofty mountains, the rugged and romantic passes, the lovely and picturesque valleys', as he characterised their attractions to members of the Nottingham Photographic Society in 1860 (67). Less than three years after making this affirmation Bourne abandoned his banking position in favour of a photographic career in India, a scene of operations combining the natural beauties of the landscape with an expanding commercial potential. On his arrival in 1863, Bourne was pleasantly surprised at the flourishing state of photography, which at the Madras School of Arts resulted in work comparable to that of many English professional studios. Calcutta was no less active, and while the city itself was something of a disappointment, being 'totally devoid of architectural beauty, and its immediate neighbourhood of pictorial interest', he found that 'the professional photographers ... appear to be doing a good stroke of business ... and the amazing wealth of the place enables artists to realise good prices' (68).
But Bourne did not remain long in Calcutta, before starting on the long journey up to the hill station of Simla, where by March 1863 he had formed a partnership with two already established photographers, Howard (probably the William Howard previously active as a photographer in Calcutta) and Charles Shepherd, formerly of the firm of Shepherd and Robertson. Howard soon left, but Bourne & Shepherd were in the space of a few years to become the most successful firm in the subcontinent, opening additional studios in Calcutta (1867) and Bombay (1870). Bourne himself left India in 1870, and was succeeded by Colin Murray (1840-1884), an equally skilled landscape and architectural photographer, who managed the business until his death from cholera in 1884. The business remains in existence, if in greatly attenuated form, up to the present day, thus making it one of the longest surviving studios in the world (69).
The success of Bourne & Shepherd was not only a product of the technical skill and commercial acumen of its founders, but relied also on their ability to present a vision of India that coincided with and reinforced European notions of the 'exotic' East - a pageant of dramatic landscapes, noble monuments and romantic ruins, peopled by a wealth of races from untamed tribes on the northern frontiers to immensely wealthy princely rulers. In Bourne's own case an impregnable belief in the civilising power of British rule also directed his ?camera towards those subjects which emphasised the morally uplifting and educative role of photography. Thus, while the Mughal architecture of Delhi deserved photographing for its architectural merits, other subjects, such as the Kashmir Gate and the Fort ('where so many of our brave countrymen perished' during the Mutiny) demanded to be recorded as moral and historical lessons. Bourne's belief in photography as an example of European technological superiority and as a weapon in the colonial arsenal is most vividly encapsulated in his pronouncement, with its conflation of the artistic and the militaristic, that the camera, 'with its mysterious chamber and mouth of brass, taught the natives of this country that their conquerors were inventors of other instruments besides the formidable guns of their artillery, which, though as suspicious perhaps in appearance, achieved their object with less noise and smoke.'
In the course of three major photographic expeditions - from Simla to the lower reaches of the Himalayas in 1863, to Kashmir in 1864 and an ambitious six-month journey to the source of the Ganges at the Gangotri Glacier in 1866 - Bourne produced a collection oflandscape views unsurpassed in technical skill and compositional elegance. But the beauty of these images was often achieved in spite of the photographer's response to the landscape, which in the higher reaches of the Himalayas was one of uneasy awe at Nature's wanton prodigality. Most of Bourne's photographs were planned, theoretically at least, according to a rigid conception of the correct components of the 'picturesque', elements which included a stretch of water, satisfyingly placed foliage and, ideally, a rustic bridge or other evidence of a human presence. For Bourne (although he later modified these views) India would never produce such good landscape photographs as England, simply 'because the scenery is not so beautiful or so well adapted for the camera' (70). India seen through the eyes of England seemed untamed, and in Bourne's photographic writing we are made aware of a constant struggle to manage, organise and bring order to a landscape - and a country - that seems altogether too massive and unruly to be contained within the borders of the camera's ground glass screen. It is tempting to interpret Bourne's unease with the threatening immensity ofIndia, and the consequent need to order it within a rigid compositional framework of trees, water and human figures for scale, as an implicit and telling image of a wider desire to reinforce imperial control of the subcontinent.
Samuel Bourne himself remained in India for only seven years, but by the end of the decade the Bourne & Shepherd catalogue contained some two thousand views from all over the subcontinent. While it was his Himalayan scenes that most strongly gripped the imaginations of both his contemporaries and posterity, this work formed only a relatively small portion of the firm's output. The colonial architecture and topography ofIndian cities, particularly Calcutta, was thoroughly documented, as well as indigenous glories - the forts and palaces of Rajasthan, the Moghul glories of northern India and the great Hindu temple architecture of the south. The comprehensive nature of this documentation inevitably inspires comparison with the picturesque tours of the late eighteenth-century artists like the Daniells. More importantly, it was to form the model to which the suc¬ceeding generations of commercial photographers aspired, defining a range of subject matter and a compositional approach which was assiduously imitated by numerous lesser photographers. The firm's influence in this respect is difficult to overestimate. One has only to compare the work of lohn Edward Sache, himself a photographer of considerable skill who arrived in India shortly after Bourne and oper¬ated studios in Calcutta, Mussoorie and Naini Tal in the succeeding decade. Much of Sache's work extends well beyond the boundaries of flattery and enters the realm of plagiarism in the precision with which a number of his views imitate Bourne's photographs. From lesser photographers, such imitation produced flat and uninteresting work, but in the hands of the more accomplished photographers both Indian and European who followed in his footsteps between the I860s and I900S and pro¬duced such an astonishingly detailed documentation of Indian life and landscape, his example remained an inspiration.
Lala Deen Dayal, "Teli Mundir, Gwalior Fort", 1882
The Indian Photographer
The story of photography in nineteenth-century India has inevitably been dominated by Europeans: as an invention of European technology introduced into India, it was used by Europeans to produce a picture of the subcontinent pleasing to their preconceptions. Surviving collections and records have also tended to emphasise the European contribution at the expense of the Indian. Apart from the few internationally known figures like Lala Deen Dayal, Indian photographers have as yet received comparatively little attention: the at present largely secret history of Indian photography will no doubt emerge more fully in time, as researchers in the subcontinent start to investigate ?vernacular sources of information in more detail. As yet only the outlines of the story can be sketched in. And while such information is often tantalisingly vague, it does at least indicate that from almost the earliest days, there were a number of talented practitioners, both amateur and professional, who made significant contributions to the growth and spread of the medium and who have not so far been adequately recognised (71).
Evidence of the extent of early Indian involvement in photography is most clearly seen in the amateur societies, where Indian members were active in all three Presidencies. In Calcutta, the celebrated scholar, antiquarian and active amateur photographer Rajendralal Mitra was appointed Treasurer to the Photographic Society of Bengal in 1857, one of a number of Bengalis who made an active contribution to the Society. Among them was Babu Preonath Sett, Treasurer to the Society, who with the President 'hoped ... to commence the tuition of some native lads in the processes of photography' (72). This positive start soon received a setback, however, when Rajendralal Mitra was expelled from the society for becoming involved in a political controversy relating to the maltreatment of Indian indigo workers in Bengal. Although he received some support from European quarters after speaking out publicly against the behaviour of the estate owners (73), the damage had been done and after his expulsion most of the Indian members henceforward boycotted the society.
In Bombay, where the first photographic society in India had been formed in 1854, a happier situation prevailed. Here too, several distinguished Indians whose interests extended to photography were among the founder members. The scholar Dr Bhau Dajee was actively involved in the society's work, as was the inventor and engineer Ardaseer Cursetjee (74). But it was Bhau Dajee's brother Dr Narain Dajee who made perhaps the most important contribution. In addition to the thirty-one portraits shown at the 1857 exhibition of the Photographic Society of Bengal and mentioned earlier, he was also a tireless contributor to the Bombay society's own exhibitions and from the mid-1850S to the 1860s practised as a professional photographer in addition to his medical duties. Narain Dajee's work was of sufficiently high quality for him to have applied for the post of Instructor in Photography at the Elphinstone Institute when classes were started there in 1855, although in the event the position was awarded to William H.S. Crawford, a professional photographer oflonger experience (75).
Such classes were probably one of the few sources of expert tuition in the first decades of photography in India, and during their generally short existences taught a number ofIndians the theory and practice of photography. In Bombay, one of the most noteworthy pupils was Hurrichund Chintamon, who in 1855 won the annual prize for the best picture and who had thereafter a long career as a commercial photographer lasting into the early 1880s. A large collection of his views was selected for display at the Paris International Exhibition of1867 and he was also one of the photographic society's most active members. The Bombay classes offered tuition in a variety of photo?graphic procedures, including 'daguerreotype, wax paper, talbotype and albumenized paper processes' (76) and were intended to supply a thorough grounding in all aspects of the medium, both theoretical and practical. But although attendance was at first good and work was produced that 'would do credit to most European Amateur Photographers,' sickness and falling numbers eventually brought about the closure of the classes (77).
In 1856, Dr Alexander Hunter of the Madras School ofIndustrial Arts, was also petitioning government for a similar class to be set up in his own institution. The request for a permanent photographer was turned down by the Madras Government on the grounds oflack of demand and the argument that the subject did not merit a full-time course since 'a very few weeks will suffice to teach all that can be learned from an instructor' (78). It was conceded, however, that Captain Linnaeus Tripe, the newly appointed Presidency photographer, should spend a few months of each year giving tuition in the subject in Madras. One photographer trained at the school, was C. Iyahsawmy, who in addition to working as Tripe's assistant, had a reputation as an accomplished photographer in his own right. By 1860, he had been appointed photographer at the Madras School of Arts and was one of the largest contributors to the Photographic Society's exhibition in that year. The school in fact continued to train photographers after the abolition of Tripe's post and despatched a number of photographers to record the antiquities of Southern India in succeeding years, including the anonymous Indian photographer who took the photographs used to illustrate James Wilkinson Breeks' 'An account of the primitive tribes and monuments of the Nilagiris', published by the India Museum in London in 1873.
Not all such photographic activity was found in official institutions and the Reverend Henry Polehampton gives an interesting sketch of the work of the Indian photographer at Lucknow, Ahmud Ali Khan, in the days just before the Indian Mutiny. Two albums of portrait work by this photographer survive, and while the technical quality of the photography is less than perfect, the prints form a unique record of the inhabitants of the city, both Indian and European, at a crucial point in its history. Po le hampton made several visits to Ahmud Ali Khan and describes him as 'a very gentlemanly man, a Mahommedan, and most liberal. He won't take anything for his likenesses. He gives you freely as many as you want, and takes no end of trouble. I have no doubt his chemicals, &c. must cost him more than £100 per annum, at the least' (79). Lucknow was later also the base for another Indian photographer, the municipal engineer Darogha Abbas Ali, who was the author of 'The Lucknow album' (Calcutta, 1874), a guide to the city containing fifty of his own photographs, as well as 'An illustrated historical album of the Rajas and Taaluqdars of Oudh' (Allahabad, 1880).
For many of the ruling families, photography became something of a fashionable pursuit. Samuel Bourne records that the Raja of Chamba owned an expensive set of cameras, but was rather more interested in displaying them to visitors than in taking pictures (80). But several rulers were ?accomplished photographers, including Ram Singh, the Maharaja of Jaipur (81) and various members of the ruling family of Tripura, who had taken up photography in its early days. Several ruling families, if they did not have the inclination to learn photography themselves, patronised the medium by employing state photographers. The Maharaja of Benares, for instance, employed Brajo Gopal Bromochary in this capacity from the late 1860s. And in Jodhpur, official authority led to the inclusion of a large and important series of prints by an anonymous Indian photographer or photographers in one of the volumes of the census report (82).
Of all Indian photographers, only Lala Deen Dayal has secured international attention on a scale comparable to Samuel Bourne, and in many ways their achievements reflect each other's: the establishment of several successful and fashionable studios, patronage from the highest quarters of society and the creation of a large body of surviving work produced to the highest technical standards. Born in 1844, Dayal was trained as a draughtsman at the Thomason Civil Engineering College at Roorkee and took up photography in the 1870s (83). One of the keys to his success was the ready acceptance his work found in European circles, and this appreciation led to his appointment as architectural photographer accompanying Sir Lepel Griffin's Central India tour Of1882, during which he produced a magnificent collection of views of Gwalior, Khajuraho, Sanchi and other sites (84). The patronage of the Nizam of Hyderabad was a further assurance of success, and by the turn of the century, his firm had a stock of views and portraits as extensive as any in India. In many ways Deen Dayal presents a more varied record ofIndian life than any European firm was able to do, since he seems to have moved with ease between several worlds - from the recording of Viceroy's tour and official durbars to more informal and sympathetic studies ofIndian life.
By the end of the century entries in commercial directories indicate that Indian photographic firms were as firmly established as European, and a publication of this period confirms the popularity of photography. H.M. Ibrahim's Urdu work 'Rahno-ma-i-Photography-yausil-i-musawery' or 'A guide to photography or the rules for taking photographs', was favourably reviewed on its appearance in 1899 by The Journal of the Photographic Society of India. The society's reviewer praised 'the most exhaustive nature' of the book, and its publication testifies to a growing interest in photography among Indians at both amateur and commercial levels, an interest confirmed by the writer, who 'says that every year increasing numbers of the more advanced natives of this country ... are anxious to learn the art of photography, either as a profession, or for their own pleasure and this has induced him to compile a work ?which should find a very large circulation.' Despite the fact that only a small proportion of native photographers were listed in contemporary commercial directories, such remarks point to a thriving photographic market serviced by indigenous operators.
Photography had gained its first secure foothold in the Indian subcontinent through the dedication of amateurs who, whether in the course of official duty or through enthusiasm for a cultured and artistic leisure pursuit, had created a substantial and impressive body of work. It was on these foundations that the professional photographer built, producing hundreds of thousands of images of India for a predominantly European market. These ranged from the inspired to the mundane, but for three decades demand for such material maintained the position of the commercial photographer in what was still a difficult and demanding medium. But a further shift took place as technological advances in both cameras and chemistry brought photography within the grasp of almost all and the primacy of the professional was eroded. Samuel Bourne, soon after his return from India in 1870, had foreseen this development and bemoaned the abandonment of highquality, large-format work in favour of smaller and more convenient equipment which produced 'small scraps fit only for the scrapbook' (85). Photographic manuals specifically aimed at the amateur in India had started to appear by 1860 (86) and intermittently thereafter (87); but the appearance in the mid-i Soos of George Ewing's comprehensive amateur manual which ran into several editions (88) signals the ending of an age of photographic experiment and achievement.
(Primary reference sources cited with the prefix 'IOR' refer to the India Office Records, housed in the Oriental and India Office Collections, British Library, London.)
1 Rev. Joseph Mullens, On the applications of photography in India (Journal of the Photographic Society of Bengal, no. 2, 21 January 1857, pp. 33-38), p. 33.
3 James Burgess, Photographs of architecture and scenery in Gujaratand Rajputana (Bourne and Shepherd, 1874). The volume contains 30 architectural and topograph¬ical views by Colin Murray, who was responsible for much of the firm's landscape work after Samuel Bourne's return to England.
4 Amateur photographic societies were formed in Bombay in 1854 and in Bengal and Madras in 1856.
5 For a brief account of the major technical process in use during the period under discussion, see pp. 143-44.
6 The Bombay Times, 14, 18, 21 December 1839.
7 By early 1840, for instance, the Friend of India was advertising imported daguerreotype equipment, and around this time a lithograph, copied from a daguerreotype, was produced of the Sans Souci Theatre, Calcutta. The original does not appear to have survived, but the lithograph is reproduced in Wilmot Corfield, Calcutta faces and places in pre-camera days, (Calcutta, 191O), P.59.
8 The Calcutta Courier, 3 October 1839; also reported in The Englishman of 4 October 1839 and The Asiatic Journal, new series vol. 31, January-April 1840,
pp. 14-15. Frustratingly few technical details of O'Shaughessy's experiments are supplied, but in this case the photogenic drawings probably involved using light-sensitive paper to make impressions of objects (such as leaves or lace) without the use of a camera. Although the use of a lens in mentioned in the reports, this appears to have been used to direct light rather than as an image-forming device. I am grateful to Dr Michael Ware for discussions and information relating to the early photographic use of gold compounds.
9 By which time word of his researches had filtered back to Europe: see, for instance the article discussing his work in the Hannoversche Zeitung of 28 February 1840.
10 The Calcutta Courier, 5 March 1840.
11 Apart from that section of the audience 'who continued conversing in a tolerably loud tone, while the explanation or lecture was going on. 'The Englishman and Military Chronicle, 4 May 1840.
12 Journal of the Photographic Society of Bengal, no. 2, 21 January 1857, p. 26.
13 Joseph Mullens, op. cit., p. 35, recalls Rowe's daguerreotypes of St Paul's Cathedral, Calcutta, swathed in scaffolding, which would date these now lost images to the early 1840S. In the course of his photographic career Rowe became expert successively in the daguerreotype, the calotype and the wet collodion processes.
14 The Englishman, 6 July 1844.
15 The Bengal and Agra Directory and Annual Register for 1849, p. 336.
16 Miscellaneous letters received, vol. r93, 1856. IOR/E/l/193.
17 Photography in Madras (Illustrated Indian Journal of Arts, February 1852), p. 32.
18 The East India Company purchase, which apparently represents a complete set of views, contains 259 prints of Calcutta, 61 of Madras, 70 of Ceylon, 41 of Mauritius and 27 of Cape Town. Fiebig's original letter to the Company states that 'the whole set will comprise about 400 views and about 50 groups of natives and single figures.'
19 These wishes were apparently never realised. Apart from the sale to the East India Company, almost no work by Fiebig has come to light and nothing is known of his life after 1856.
20 John McCosh, Advice to officers in India (London, 1856), p. 7.
21 Journal of the Photographic Society of Bombay, no. 1, January 1855, pp. 2-3.
22 Photography was taught at the East India Company's college at Addiscombe from 1855 by the drawing master Aaron Penley. H.M. Vibart, Addiscombe, its heroes and men of note (London, 1894), p.212.
23 His work was also made known in Europe by the London publisher J. Hogarth, who issued thirty of these large views in a portfolio entitled Agra and its vicinity (London, 1858); a second set of views, in a different format appeared in J.T. Boileau, Picturesque views in the N.W Provinces of India (London, 1859).
24 And, in the case of one photographer at least, had a more fatal impact: the daguerreotypisr j.w, Newland was an early casualty of the uprising, The Bengal Hurkaru and India Gazette (26 May 1857) reporting that he was killed while travelling between Delhi and Meerut, 'taken from the dak carriages and mutilated with great barbarity'.
25 For a fuller account of Beato's work in India, see David Harris, Topography and memory: Felice Beato's photographs of India , 1858-1859 in Vidya Dehejia (ed), India through the lens. Photography 1840-1911 (Washington, 2000), pp. 119-31.
26 John Fraser, Beato's photograph of the interior oJthe Sikandarbagh at Lucknow (Journal of the Army Historical Research, vol 64, no. 237, 1981), pp. 5r-55.
27 TheJournal oJthe Photographic Society, vol 5, no. 79, 1859, p. 185.
28 From the evidence of the prints, it seems likely that Tytler accompanied Beato on photographic excursions in Delhi: several of his views are almost identical in composition to Beato's.
29 The Englishman, 28 May 1859.
30 Gaston Tissandier (ed. John Thomson), A history and handbook of photography (znd edition, London, 1878), pp. 318-19.
32 Public Despatches to Bengal, no. 1 of 1847, 27 January 1847, IOR/L/P&J/3/1021.
33 Proceedings of Financial Department of the Government of India, 4th April 1851, Board's Collections, V.3687, IOR/F/4/2503.
34 Public Despatches to Bengal, no. 1 of 1847, 27 January 1847,IOR/L/P&J/3/1021.
35 Bombay Public Despatches, 29 December 1854, IOR/E/4/1101 ff.1449-51. Whether Biggs himself was responsible for first suggesting the use of photography to the Company is unclear. Over two decades later, in a letter to the Secretary of State for India dated 3 December 1877, he writes that it was his presentation of 'a large manuscript volume of copies of sculptures' to the Court of Directors in 1853, 'which mainly led to the desire on the part of the government to have the sculptures and inscriptions copied systematically' (Geographical Home Correspondence, IOR/L/E/2/I03 item 50). The whereabouts and contents of this volume have not been discovered.
36 Bombay Public Despatches, 18 February 1857, IOR/E/4/1107 f. 452.
37 Thomas Biggs, Theodore C. Hope and James Fergusson, Architecture at Ahmadabad, the capital of Gujarat; P.D. Hart, A. Cumming, T. Biggs, Major Loch, Meadows Taylor and James Fergusson, Architecture at Bijapur, an ancient Mahomedan capital in the Bombay Presidency; W.H. Pigou, A.c.B. Neill, T. Biggs, Meadows Taylor and James Fergusson, Architecture in Dharwar and Mysore. All published by John Murray, London, 1866. The Ahmadabad volume, a less lavish production than the other two volumes, contains photographs taken by Biggs in the 1860s rather than the 1850S. These publications were intended to be the start of a continuing series of works to be brought out under the guidance of the Committee of Architectural Antiquities of Western India, but in the event no further volumes appeared.
38 Fort St George Public Consultations, 11 March 1865. Board's Collections, IOR/F/4/2725, no. 198064.
39 The volumes were published as follows: Photographic views of Madura; Photoqraphic views of Poodoocottah; Photographic views of Ryakotta and other places in the Salem district; Photographic views of Seringham; Photographic views in Tanjore and Trivady; Photographic views of Trichinopoly. All published in Madras in 1858.
40 Tripe to Chief Secretary, Madras Government, 1 September 1856. Board's Collections, IOR/F/4/2725 no. 198065.
41 Fort St George Public Consultations, 15 April 1859, IOR/P/249/69.
42 James Fergusson, History of Indian and eastern architecture (London, 1876), preface.
43 James Fergusson, I1lustrations of various styles of Indian architecture (London, 1869), p. 6.
44 Ibid, p. 10.
45 Report by Thomas Biggs on photographic tour, dated 4 January 1856, Board's Collections, IOR/F/4/2665.
46 Text by Boswell in Linnaeus Tripe, Photoqruphic views of Ryakotta and other places, in the Salem district (Madras, 1858), plate 5.
47 Ibid, plate 8.
48 Bengal Public Proceedings, no. 61 of September 1867, IOR/P/432/3.
49 Bengal Public Proceedings, no. 9 of July 1868, IOR/P/432/4.
50 This proposal was therefore soon modified and by April 1868 the government was asking H.H. Locke, Principal of the Government School of Art in Calcutta, to investigate whether Rs, 1000 'will be sufficient to induce a professional artist to undertake to make photographs of all the views that might be required in connexion with one set of buildings' . Bengal Public Proceedings, no. II of July 1868, IOR/P/432/4.
51 A detailed memorandum outlining this scheme for the documentation ofIndian architecture, and the use of photography within it, was published by the India Museum at about this time. See John Forbes Watson, Report on the illustration of the archaic architecture of India, &c. (London, 1869).
52 India Office Records, Home Proceedings, Surveys, vol. 1501, 1880.
53 Tripe to EA. Murray, Secretary to Governor of Madras, 22 July 1856. Board's Collections, IOR/F/4/2725 no. 198065.
54 Journal of the Photoqrcphic Society of Bengal, no. 3, 20 May 1857, p. 68.
55 The publication ran for 36 monthly issues between 1856-1859, each number containing three original prints with descriptive captions. Johnson and Henderson's contribution, as well topographical and architectural views, was a series of portrait studies entitled Costumes and characters of Western India.
56 Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, August 1865, p. 148.
57 Memorandum from John Forbes Watson to John William Kaye, dated 18 July 1863, discussing plans for the publication of The People of India; IOR/L/E/6/37, item 39.
58 Introduction to The People of India.
59 Letter to the Secretary of the Government of Bengal, ?dated 17 June 1861, Bengal Public Proceedings 1861, IOR/P/15/21·
60 See Government ofIndia Foreign Consultations (General), July 1863, pp. 6-67. IOR/P/205/14.
61 In addition to the rigours of the tour, at its conclusion Waterhouse estimated that in order to get the 1252 prints sent in (20 copies from each of about 60 photographs), poor quality paper and other factors made it necessary to make over 3000 prints. Ibid, p. 37.
62 Ibid, p. 36.
63 John Forbes Watson, 'On the measures required for the efficient working of the Indian Museum and Library, with suggestions for thefoundation, in connection with them, of an Indian Institute of Enquiry, Lecture, and Teaching' (London, 1874), p.26.
64 George Gliddon in L.F.A. Maury, E Pulszky & J.E Meigs, Indigenous races of the earth (Philadelphia, 1857), P·609·
65 Report on the administration of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands ... for 1893-1894 (Calcutta, 1894, pp.II5-16), IOR/v/10/610.
66 Changing fashions and developments in technical matters also played their part; paper negatives were being superseded by glass and by the early 1860s the work of photographers like Murray and Tripe, while still earning praise, was being dismissed as 'inferior to what might have been expected of collodion', the latter by 1862 considered superior in terms of 'clearness, sharpness, and artistic effect'(journal of the Bengal Photographic Society, vol I, no. 1, 1 May 1862, p.6 and no. 2, 1 September 1862, p. 40).
67 Samuel Bourne, On some of the requisites necessary for the production of a good photograph, (The Nottingham Athenaeum Society's Magazine, October 1860), pp. 40-41.
68 Samuel Bourne, Photography in the east (British journal of Photography, 1 July 1863), p.269.
69 For the most accurate account of Bourne's Indian career, see Gary D. Sampson, The success of Samuel Bourne in India, (History of Photography, Winter 1992, pp·336-47)· See also Sampson, Photographer of the picturesque: Samuel Bourne in Vidia Dehejia (ed), India through the lens. Photography 1840-1911 (Washington, 2000), pp. 163-75.
70 Samuel Bourne, Photography in the east (British Journal of Photography, 1 September 1863), P.346.
71 Some attempt to analyse the characteristics of a specifically Indian response to photography (conceptually unconvincing and factually unreliable in the view of this writer) is made in Judith Mara Gutman, Through Indian eyes (New York, 1982). But see also Christopher Pinney, Camera Indica. The social life of Indian photographs (London, 1997).
?72 Journal of the Photographic Society of Bengal, no. 2, 21 January 1857.
73 See the pamphlet, Address, a member opposing an intended resolution to expel Rajendralala Mitra for speaking against the indigo planters at a public meeting (Calcutta, 1857),
74 His obituary in the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers (1878) describes him as 'foremost in introducing photography and electro-plating into Bombay'.
75 Correspondence relating to this appointment, and the history of the classes in general, can be found in Board's Collections, IOR/F/4/2677 no. 181526.
77 In fact the Elphinstone Institute class had never been intended as a permanent fixture, since the authorities felt that a school of photography would in the long run be more appropriately housed in the soon to be opened Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art. When this was established the photographer appointed was Narayan Shivshanker, who was responsible for a good deal of architectural photography in the Bombay area in succeeding years.
78 Fort St George Public Consultations, 20 May 1856. In Board's Collections, IOR/F/4/2725 no. 198064
79 E. and T.S. Polehampton (ed.), A memoir, letters and diary of the Rev. Henry S. Polehampton (London, 1858), p.212.
80 Samuel Bourne, Narrative of a photographic trip to Kashmir (Cashmere) and adjacent districts (British Journal of Photo,graphy, 2 November 1866), p.524.
81 Ram Singh also employed a T. Murray as court photographer, and it is unclear how much of the photographic work was produced on his own.
82 Haryal Singh, Report on the census of 1891. Volume II: The castes of Mar war (Jodhpur, 1894).
83 He may well have been introduced to the medium at the college, since photography had been taught to Indian students there since 1864, 'to enable them to show the progress of public works' (Photographic News, 1864), P.59.
84 These were later reproduced as collotypes in Griffin's Famous monuments of Central India (London, 1886).
85 British Journal of Photography, 1871, P.425.
86 F. Fisk Williams, A guide to the Indian photographer (Calcutta, 1860). An advertisement in the back of this volume refers to a so far untraced but clearly earlier work, Cowley's Photography in India.
87 John Blees, Photography in Hindostan; or reminiscences of a travelling photographer (Bombay, 1877).
88 George Ewing, A handbook of photography for amateurs in India (Calcutta, 1895; second edition, 1909).