University of Cambridge > > Visual Constructions of South Asia (2015-16) > The Imperial Aesthetic: Photography, Samuel Bourne and the Indian Peoples in the post-Mutiny era

The Imperial Aesthetic: Photography, Samuel Bourne and the Indian Peoples in the post-Mutiny era

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes.

Samuel Bourne (1834-1912), one of the most prestigious Victorian English commercial photographers to have worked in British India, is best known for his photographs of the Himalayas. Bourne’s work features in general studies of photography of the period; his representations of the Indian landscape have been the object of studies and several exhibitions. Bourne was in India initially from 1863 to 1870 thereby establishing his career as a professional photographer. Soon after his arrival he started a business with the experienced photographer Charles Shepherd. Within a few years, the firm of Bourne & Shepherd became recognised as being a directing influence over British-Indian photography. Their work provides a valuable tool to evaluate the Victorian representations of India, the setting of a colonial mind. This paper focuses on Bourne’s commercial and artistic photographs of the indigenous population, produced during successive field trips he undertook during his seven-year stay in India in the 1860s and the portraits taken by his firm in the following decade. We will engage with the relationship between ethnography and photography, and reflect on the balance between aesthetic and cultural considerations. We will consider different fields such as religion, the caste system, race theories, ethnology, and gender perspectives in order to understand the relationship between Bourne’s work, and more generally imperial photography, and the making of the Empire in the post-1858 era.

This talk is part of the Visual Constructions of South Asia (2015-16) series.

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