As part of Tasveer’s tenth anniversary, the exhibition, Bourne & Shepherd: Figures In Time sourced from the rich photographic holdings of MAP (Museum of Art & Photography, Bangalore), includes a range of landscapes, architectural views and portraits by the ace photographers Samuel Bourne, Charles Shepherd of the Bourne & Shepherd studio. 

Delhi, The Great Arch and the Iron Pillar at the Qutub Minar Samuel Bourne, c. 1860 Courtesy MAP Tasveer

One of the most famous of the early European commercial photographers, and the most prolific photographer of the ‘picturesque’ tradition, Samuel Bourne, a former bank clerk, arrived in India in 1836. Bringing with him a large amount of photographic equipment, developing local contacts here, and having access to Indian bearers, Bourne travelled the subcontinent widely — producing over 2,000 negatives including some of the finest 19th Century travel photography.

Initially partnering with William Howard, Bourne set up the Howard & Bourne studio in Shimla. They were joined by Charles Shepherd, and when William Howard left them; the studio dropped his name to become Bourne & Shepherd. In 1866, in alignment with a growing culture of studio-photography, the Bourne & Shepherd establishment set up a branch in Calcutta, where it was trading as one of the oldest studios in the world, until its closure in 2016.

One of the most prestigious studios of its time, it was patronised heavily by royalty, nobility, Europeans, Indians and a mushrooming upper middle class; and certain to be commissioned for special events such as the Delhi Durbar (some images of which form part of this exhibition).

Known for his architectural and topographical (especially mountain and hill views) photography, Bourne’s work immortalised the Indian landscape and was fervently consumed by the British public — primarily in the form of postcards, book illustrations and views for albums. The nature of this form of distribution, coupled with the available technology of the time, meant that these images were primarily realised in a relatively small size.

One of the highlights of this exhibition is its reproduction of select prints in enlarged ratios that allow viewers a unique insight into these historically significant photographs.The exhibition is accompanied by the publication of a catalogue that carries an original essay by Hugh Ashley Rayner, prolific British author and scholar of early Indian photography, on the life and works of Samuel Bourne. A limited edition collector’s portfolio is available for sale, as well as individual archival pigment prints.

The exhibition will be on from 11 am to 7.30 pm from July 9th to 16th, 2017, at The Folly, Amethyst café, Royapettah