SOAS University of London


Asia House presents


in association with The British Library & SOAS



In the 19th century, India was at the forefront of photographic development, and this exhibition includes a wide range of arresting images many of which have never been seen in public before.


The exhibition is drawn from two of the most important collections of Indian photography, the British Library's Oriental and India Office Collections and the Howard and Jane Ricketts Collection - and is sponsored by Royal & SunAlliance. This is the first major exhibition in London of Indian photography of this period.


Since the 18th century people, events and landscapes in India had been keenly observed and documented by both Indian and European artists in paintings, drawings, aquatints and lithographs. Within a few years of its introduction in Europe in 1839, however, photography had become the new recording medium.


By the mid-1850s photographic societies had been established in the three major cities (Calcutta, Bombay and Madras) and the status and reliability of photography grew so quickly that in 1855 the East India Company decided to replace its draftsmen with photographers. By the 1860s cameras were a familiar sight on the subcontinent and this decade saw the development of a thriving commercial market for photographs.


The exhibition is broadly divided into four distinct groups which reflect the major preoccupations and achievements of 19th-century Indian photography: the early amateurs of the 1 840s who first introduced the medium; the documentation of India's architectural and ethnic diversity; the achievements of commercial photographers such as Samuel Boume and Lala Deen Dayal; and princely India. These will be supported by other smaller groups of photographs, which will cover topics including natural history, panoramas, trade and the industrialisation of India, and the Durbars.