Bourne & Shepherd

Figures in Time

MAP is delighted to lend work to this exciting exhibition, celebrating the life and work of Samuel Bourne and Charles Shepherd, and the legacy of their studio.

20 August, 2015 - 15 September, 2015
Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai

MAP is delighted to announce the loan of a selection of original vintage photographs by Samuel Bourne from its collection for an exhibition titled Figures In Time: Bourne & Shepherd, which starts at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai, before making its way around India to galleries in Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata and Ahmedabad.

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 1863. 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 2000 negatives including some of the finest nineteenth century travel photography.

Initially partnering with William Howard, Bourne set up the Howard & Bourne studio in Shimla. They were joined by Charles Shepherd, and with the leaving of William Howard, 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 still trades as one of the oldest studios in the world, to this day.

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). Though Shepherd was also a photographer of some standing, he became more known as a master printer, staying back to head the business side of operations; and was somewhat overshadowed by Bourne, who soon became the primary photographic expert on India, travelling the length and breadth of the subcontinent. 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 allows viewers a unique insight into these historically significant photographs from a contemporary moment.

The exhibition features more than 40 reprints of photographs by Samuel Bourne, Charles Shepherd and the studio, preserved in the MAP collection. It is also be accompanied by the publication of a new 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.

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