Royal Commonwealth Society : Photographs of India

Royal Commonwealth Society

<p>A collection of photographs by Samuel Bourne, Bourne and Shepherd, and Charles Shepherd. The collection originally consisted of a heavy, custom-made wooden box containing large leather bound albums, each stamped in gold 'India 1872'. The photographs came from the firm of Bourne and Shepherd and this collection was put together by Marion and Co. It was presumably made up in commemoration of some event, possibly in memory of the Earl of Mayo who was murdered in 1872. The prints, most measuring approximately 300 x 235 mm and captioned, deal with the following areas of the sub-continent:</p> <p> Y3022C (46 prints): Amritsar, Lahore, Srinagar, Kashmir, source of the Ganges, Lucknow.</p> <p>Y3022D (53 prints): Delhi, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Benares, Cawnpore, Sikandra, Bharatpur, Deig, Gwalior, Bombay, Elephanta.</p> <p>Y3022E (56 prints): Calcutta, Barrackpur, Simla, Ootacamund, Tanjore, Trichinopoly, Ceylon (i.e. Sri Lanka).</p> <p> Samuel Bourne (1834-1912).</p> <p>Samuel Bourne is justly regarded as one of the finest commercial photographers of the 19th century, allying a fine compositional flair and high technical expertise to an adventurous outlook in seeking out suitably 'picturesque' views to record. He was also evidently a shrewd businessman and an able publicist for his own work, no doubt stimulating demand by the series of long articles detailing his photographic expeditions in India which appeared in 'The British Journal of Photography' between 1863 and 1870.</p> <p>He was born at Market Drayton on 30 October 1834 and after being educated by a clergyman near Fairburn, secured a job with Moore and Robinson's Bank, Nottingham in 1855. His photographic activities started at this time: 'It was a hobby, of course, at first … I possessed myself of a little camera, which cost me £5, soon after I came to Nottingham. I used to amuse myself by taking photographs of the market place from the Bank window … I had not had the opportunity to do much while I was at the Bank' ('The Trader', 27 April 1912, p.2).</p> <p>In 1858 Bourne made a photographic tour of the Lake District and in 1859 displayed photographs at the Nottingham Photographic Society Exhibition. In the following year his photographs were also shown in London and his work was well received at the London International Exhibition of 1862. In this year he gave up his position at the bank and set sail for India to work as a professional photographer, arriving in Calcutta early in 1863. While in Calcutta he attended a meeting of the Bengal Photographic Society and commented on the number of members as well as the flourishing state of commercial photography in general in the city. The following month he left for Simla, visiting en route Benares, Agra, Delhi and Umballa. In Simla he commenced photographic work and on 29 July 1863 left the hill station for a trip into the Himalayas. With a retinue of 30 coolies he travelled to Chini, 160 miles north-east of Simla, and spent some time photographing in the Chini-Sutlej River area before heading west to Spiti and returning to Simla on 12 October with 147 negatives. At around this time Bourne entered into the first of the commercial partnerships which was later to become the firm of Bourne and Shepherd and which still flourishes to this day in Calcutta.</p> <p>In the following year Bourne set out on the longest of his expeditions, a nine month trip to Kashmir. Leaving Lahore on 17 March he journeyed north-east to Kangra and from there, via Byjnath, Holta, Dhurmsala and Dalhousie, travelled to Chamba. He left Chamba for Kashmir on 8 June and by the middle of the month had reached the Chenab Valley. The following weeks were spent photographing the scenery of Kashmir (see Y3022C/4, 12-16) before proceeding to Srinagar, where he stopped for some weeks, sight seeing and photographing (see Y3022C/6-11), before continuing his journey on 15 September. The return journey took in the Sind Valley, Baramula, Murree, Delhi and Cawnpore before arriving in Lucknow (see Y3022C/39-46) on Christmas Eve 1864.</p> <p>Bourne's third and last major trip was his most ambitious, consisting of a six month journey in the Himalayas with the goal of reaching and photographing the source of the Ganges (see Y3022C/17-38). He left Simla in the company of Dr. G.R. Playfair on 3 July 1866 and travelled with him to the Spiti River where they parted company. Bourne then continued on to the Manining Pass, the junction of the Spiti and Sutlej Rivers and then returned to Sungnam and Chini having amassed 62 negatives. He spent some time photographing the Rogi Cliffs (which he had first visited in 1863) and after photographing the glacier at the source of the Buspa, journeyed on to the foot of the Gangtori Glacier where he photographed the Bhagarathi, one of the sources of the Ganges, issuing from the mouth of the ice cave. His return journey took in Agora, Mussorie, Roorkie, Meerut and Naini Tal and Bourne arrived in Simla in time for Christmas 1866.</p> <p>Many of the prints in these albums can be accurately dated from Bourne's descriptions in the extensive 'British Journal of Photography' articles. Bourne published no further accounts of his photographic activities and the dating of his other work relies largely on the sequence of negative numbers. His views of Ootacamund would appear to have been taken around 1867 in which year Bourne made a brief visit to England where he married Mary Tolley. The south Indian work (the documentation of the great temples at Tanjore and Trichinopoly, for instance) were probably taken in 1869 since an advertisement in the journal of the Bengal Photographic Society in that year stated that the firm's photographs of Madras, central and southern India were in preparation. The views of Ceylon (Y3022E/47-56) probably date from around 1871, after Bourne's departure, since similar views are described as being awarded a Gold Medal at the Bengal Photographic Society Exhibition of 1871-72. Bourne left India in 1870 or 1871, returning to Nottingham where he founded a cotton-doubling business with his brother-in-law J.B. Tolley. At some time after his return to England he disposed of his interests in Bourne and Shepherd. Although continuing to photograph as a relaxation, much of his creative energies from this time onwards was devoted to watercolour painting. He died in Nottingham on 24 April 1912.</p> <p> Bourne and Shepherd.</p> <p>Although Samuel Bourne is the more famous of the two partners, and although the firm's early fame rested securely upon his photographic skill and commercial acumen, Charles Shepherd was himself a talented photographer and a number of other figures involved with the firm are names important in the history of the medium in the Indian subcontinent. Unfortunately the history of the shifting commercial alliances and partnerships of the 1860s has been by no means fully clarified, although a broad outline account of the firm's young days can be given. The firm of Shepherd and Robertson appears to have started trading in Agra in about 1862, moving to Simla in 1864. Little is known of Robertson apart from the negative information that he appears not to have been James Robertson who was the early partner of Felici Beato in the Middle East. At around this time the partnership of Howard, Bourne and Shepherd was formed in Allahabad, but soon moved to Simla, and presumably the firm of Shepherd and Robertson was then dissolved. It is likely that the stock of Shepherd and Robertson was absorbed by Bourne and Shepherd since prints signed by Shepherd and Robertson certainly later appear in the Bourne and Shepherd catalogue. The firm of Howard, Bourne and Shepherd is listed in Thacker's directory for the years 1865-68: after this time Howard no longer appears in the partnership. In 1870 Bourne and Shepherd were operating from Simla and Calcutta and a Bombay branch was opened in about 1876. This was operated by Charles Shepherd until his departure from India around 1879. Over and above his work for Bourne and Shepherd, Charles Shepherd's best known photographic work was the woodburytypes and autotypes used to illustrate Cole (1872). By the time of Shepherd's departure the firm had established its pre-eminence in the sub-continent and was able to offer the public a series of some 2500 views of architecture (both Indian and European), topography, and portraits of native types and rulers from India, Burma, Ceylon and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Many of their photographs were published in books on India and their prints purchased by generations of residents and tourists, so much so that their surviving work forms perhaps the most detailed visual source for the sub-continent.</p> <p>Marion and Co., of 22 Soho Square, were, from 1866, agents for the firm of Bourne and Shepherd in England.</p>


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