The Photographic Historical Society of Canada

The Samuel Bourne Albums
Julienne Pascoe
Program date: November 17, 2010

Julienne Pascoe by Wayne Gilbert
Pascoe by Gilbert

Bourne & Shepherd Studio c1945 by Leonard Rudhoff
Studio 1945

Bourne & Shepherd Studio upper story 2009 by Roshan Rao
Studio 2009

Samuel Bourne
Samuel Bourne

Vishnu Pud
Vishnu Pud

Gateway to Hooseinabad Bazaar, Lucknow, India
Hooseinabad

Sambourneagra
Taj Mahal Agra India

Himalayas Album Cover
Himalayas Cover

Himalayas Album sample print
Album page

National Media museum, Bradford, England
NMM Bradford

Database in Filemaker Pro
Database record

Talbot House, Simla India
Talbot House

Book by Bourne on his Himalayan travels
Book by Bourne

Mussucks and Mussuckmen crossing the rever
Mussucks

Julienne Pascoe
Julienne Pascoe
Julienne Pascoe
Julienne Pascoe
Julienne Pascoe

Wayne Gilbert photographs Felix and Clint with Jules
For the record

L-R Felix Russo, Julienne Pascoe, Lewko (Clint) Hryhorijiw
Thank you


Copyright Info

Some the images are copyright by others and used with permission as follows:
Old Ad:
The Civil and Military Gazette Lahore, October 22, 1880 Courtesy: National Archives of Pakistan, Islamabad
Studio 1945:
Matt Rudoff
Studio 2009:
Roshan Lao
Samuel Bourne:
Public Domain qv. Wikipedia article
Vishnu Pud:
Public Domain qv. Wikipedia article
Hooseinabad:
Public Domain qv. Wikipedia article
Taj Mahal:
Public Domain qv. Wikipedia article
Ms Pascoe:
Photos taken by Wayne Gilbert with a Nikon camera.

Julienne Pascoe holds an MA in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management from Ryerson University (2009). Her work experiences include creating a digital image database for the Baroness Elsa Image Archive, at the MLC Research Center under the supervision of Dr. Irene Gammel and assisting in the organization of the Klinsky Archive, a collection of 9,500 press photographs from the 1930s, at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) where she recently became Assistant, Collections and Information Resources. Jules launched her own consulting company in Toronto in August 2009: Consulting Services for Preservation and Management of Photographic Collections. Her talk this evening focussed on the research of the Bourne albums as well as highlighting important aspects of Samuel Bourne's photographic practice in India of the 1860s.

Bourne & Shepherd AdvertisementQuick now, which city is home to the oldest still functioning photographic studio? Paris? London? New York? Montreal? Surprisingly it is Calcutta, now known as Kolkata, India. The Bourne & Shepherd studio has roots back to 1863 (1840 according to a Times of India article). The studio changed to its current name in the 1860s when Samuel Bourne joined the company. A major fire at the studio in the 1990s destroyed all the historic glass negatives and records leaving prints in other facilities (eg AGO, NMM (Bradford England), Alkazi Foundation) as the only inventory instances of the studio’s work.
In 2010 the current owners applied for a heritage grant.

For this write-up I tracked down two images of the studio in Kolkata. In this 1945 snap the studio and area look to be very prosperous. The picture was found in the possessions of the late Leonard Rudoff. He was 17 and serving on the USS General H.F. Hodges, a troop transport when he took these photos. They record many of the places visited during his tour of duty. Thanks to his son Matt Rudoff for permisson to show the image here. Check out Matt's Flickr! page to see more.

The second image, taken by Roshan Rao of Mangalore, India in March of 2009 shows the top story of the building in much sadder condition. I have taken the liberty of straightening the shot in Photoshop. You can see the original image and some of Roshan's other photos on his Flickr! page.

Samuel Bourne was a British commercial photographer best known for his photographs taken during a seven year stay in India. The development of photography coincided with the expansion of the British Empire and was used to survey and represent colonial geography and landscapes. Part of his success was the timing. Following the 1857-8 mutiny, Britain took over from the East India Company, generating an interest in views of India.

Arriving in 1863, Bourne established a studio in Simla (Shimla), an important British hill station. His studio quickly expanded, joined by William Howard, and Charles Shepherd. Shepherd took the studio portraits and ethnographic studies while Bourne did landscapes and architecture in the Indian sub continent. Bourne’s photographs were directed at an English cliental. Howard handled what was now the “Bourne and Shepherd” studio’s print making and business affairs. The studio was quite advanced in its marketing. It had suppliers throughout India, and a publisher (Marion & Cie of France) and many dealers in Europe. The various series of views and portraits were marketed via catalogues.

With this effective partnership Bourne was able to begin his travels through northern India in July of 1863, six months after arriving in India. He made three treks throughout the Himalayas in the years 1863, 4, 6. Bourne used the large format wet-plate camera of the era and was the first photographer to travel to these remote locations, reaching a height of 18,600 feet. If you are familiar with the wet-plate process, you can appreciate Bourne’s massive equipment needs - chemicals, glass plates, and an on-location dark room, since the plates had to be sensitized, exposed and developed before the emulsion dried.

Bourne’s wet-plate field camera had a square bellows and could take glass sizes up to 12 x 10 inches. He used lenses made by both Grubb and by Dallmeyer (see this link to GEH Image magazine Vol IV, No 3, page 21 for an article by Kingslake on early landscape lenses and this link to read p 43 of Taylor's "The Optics of Photography and Photographic Lenses" and this link to read Page 28,9 of Kingslake's "A History of the Photographic Lens"). He notes in the British Journal of Photography (BJP) that his lenses were aplanatic as the double and triplets were not then available. His BJP articles describe the technical details of his journeys since the BJP’s primary audience was photographers. For example, he details that he took 250 12 x10 glass plates, 400 8 x 4.5 glass plates, and two boxes of chemicals. On each trip he includes a duplicate set of supplies for safety.

Jules pointed out that the information on Bourne and the his studio along with many pictures is readily available in a google search. The private albums are a different matter and were the subject of her thesis. The three owned by the AGO are a recent acquisition. In the course of her research, Jules took digital images of the albums and their contents for reference use. The AGO hopes to digitize all the photographs in a professional manner at a later date and put them online for access by everyone.

Bourne’s work was highly skilled and guided by an imperial picturesque style. He applied the English notion of pictorial organization and subject matter to show the landscapes of India. For example, by photographing water and rock formations with people posed in the scene and framing the view with plants and foliage. He produced sequences and series of views to create a narrative best presented in the album format. (This is Jules’s own interpretation and she acknowledges it will be hard to verify.) There are a total of 705 prints to assess in this collection which is a significant research tool covering as it does Bourne’s career, colonial history, India of the 1860s, and photographic practices of the period. The photographs show no sign of significant retouching on the glass negatives (some may have been cropped). Bourne experienced trouble recording distant mountains in the Himalayas and those photographs may have been manipulated during printing.

Jules confirmed that these were the personal albums of Samuel Bourne, assembled by him and included some personal images (the albums are important as objects in their own right, with their own history). Her thesis was based on a study of all seven albums during the final year of her program at Ryerson and the AGO. The remaining four albums are from the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) collection now at the National Media Museum (Bradford) in Bradford, England.

The split raised important issues when trying to manage the collections. For her thesis, Jules’s object was to reconnect the two sets through cataloging and contextual research, as well as understanding their relationship to Bourne. She described her four major areas of research as:

1. Provenance - tracing the albums to Samuel Bourne. The existence of the albums came to light in 1972 when a Major R M Bourne donated four of the seven albums to the RPS. Major Bourne is the grandson of Samuel Bourne. On May 8, 1992 the remaining three albums entered the market via a Sotheby's auction. They were shown in an auction catalogue, a copy of which resides in the National Gallery of Canada. At the auction, all three albums were won by a private collector. Nine years later they were sold at auction a second time (Christie’s September 27, 2001 auction), once again entered a private collection (RPS records confirm their interest in these three albums). In 2007, the AGO acquired the albums through a private donation. These two holdings consist of the entire collection of Bourne’s personal albums. Their contents are Bourne's personal selection of 705 prints that cover his entire career. The albums are considered to be unique - no other copies have ever surfaced.

2. Physical Attributes. The seven albums have a consistency in design and materials. The AGO documentation of the albums began with their half of the collection. The first impression was the elaborate nature of the albums’ construction. The albums were made to proudly display the work of this author. A blind stamp on each page, M&Co, is the trademark of the French publishing house, Marion and Coy. In 1870, the Bourne & Shepherd studio made contact with Marion & Coy., granting them international distribution rights. This fact tied the albums to Bourne’s career.

3. The Photographs. The albumen print quality is excellent throughout. Almost every print has a cutline below. The photographs fit the standard glass plate sizes used by the studio - 25 x 30 cm (about 10x12 inches). Some the prints are smaller, including 19 x 32 cm (about 7.5 x 12.5 inches). Each print shows a negative number from the reference number Bourne scratched on the glass negatives and can be cross-referenced to Bourne & Shepherd's catalogues which list the negative number and caption for each photograph.

4. Organization of Content. The albums are organized by the stages in Bourne’s career with each album covering a specific journey. All the photographs are in chronological and geographical order. Understanding the album organization helped Jules understand how Bourne saw his career. By comparing Bourne’s BJP articles to the catalogues she was able to add dates and locations to the studio catalogue listings and tie them to the prints. Using a database program (Filemaker Pro) Jules catalogued all 705 prints in the collection.

Jules then discussed the individual albums and their content, in chronological order - beginning with the first three which are in the AGO holdings.

1. “The Sutlji - Indian Groups Etc.”. This album contains prints from his earliest work including many rare unpublished images. Midway through, the album switches to smaller ethnographic images taken by Shepherd before Bourne arrived in India. These prints are all marked “Shepherd and Robinson”. On one page are two small photographs; the upper right print shows Samuel Bourne in 1864 with the Raja of Chambra who was an enthusiastic photographer. The print has no image number and was likely never published commercially. The lower left print on the same page shows the Supreme Indian Council, Simla in 1864 with no cutline. Jules tracked down a copy of the photograph in the National Portrait Gallery, London and this copy included the names of everyone.

2. “Himalayas”. This second album records Bourne’s most famous trek in the Himalayas - an area which had never before been photographed, documenting the higher altitude terrain and life in these famous mountains. These photographs illustrate Bourne’s skill in making his photographs picturesque even in such remote areas.

3. “India Architecture and Scenery Vol. I”. While the Himalayas photographs are better known, these photographs are important as they relate to Bourne’s work recording the architecture and sites of recent colonial history. His subjects were chosen for their potential interest to members of the British colonial societies back home in England. Jules discussed several highlights from the collection including a social gathering at a picnic in Ootacamund in 1869, and a massive group wedding at Simla in 1870.

To review the remaining albums, Jules travelled to Bradford, England. She remarked on the incredible material in the RPS (one of the world’s oldest photographic societies) collection. Bradford acquired the RPS collection, including four of the Bourne albums, in 2001. She thought there were only two remaining albums and was amazed when the archivist wheeled out four massive volumes. She then spent a week of rushed cataloguing. She also found a bit of time to research other relevant RPS material, gathering more evidence linking the albums to Bourne.

4. “Views in Cashmere” (Kashmir) - These photographs were taken during Bourne's second journey inside India. The prints focus on picturesque themes, including a series of photographs in the Jhelum Waterway series, Srinagar dated 1864.

5. “Hill Stations of India”. Is another extensive album. Bourne spent much time photographing the Hill Stations, popular with the British residents of India during the hot season. Included are important photographs of Simla, one of the more popular summer retreats. Bourne adopted Simla as his home town in India, and his studio (Talbot House) became part of the community. This album shows photographs of Talbot House but it wasn’t until Jules had returned to Toronto that she realized Simla was the location of Bourne’s studio. While the studio nickname “Talbot House” was known, its location was never documented. The Simla series also shows interrelated views of Simla in winter and summer. Such photographs were unusual since Bourne never took shots from same location twice.

6. “India Architecture and Scenery II”. This album revealed the extent that Bourne recorded architecture throughout India. There are photographs from his excursions to the south of India plus some personal photographs. Eleven of the photographs show sites that were popular tourist destinations even in the mid 1800s. Several “mystery” pictures turned out to be of Egypt, yet there is no documentation of Bourne ever traveling there and his professional photographic activities ended when he left India. However; as the Suez canal opened in 1869, a year before Bourne left for England, he may well have travelled home via the Suez, taking or buying the images of Egypt.

7. “Photographs”. Simply named “Photographs”, this album includes portraits of the “Bourne & Shepherd” photographers, Charles Shepherd, Bourne, and his replacement in India, Colin Murray. The photographs are unsigned and may be from RPS. While most of the other albums have focussed on Bourne’s work, this one fills in the gaps with photographs by the studio. The studio photographs can be easily identified by the reoccurring props. Another strange series was 140 photographs of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) in both small and large formats. The photographs followed the Prince of Wales on his 1875 tour of India, long after Bourne’s departure. Jules found the answer in an 1881 Bourne & Shepherd catalogue. There was a description of a Royal photographic tour album showing the Prince of Wales touring through India. This tour would have earned a huge commission for the studio. It makes sense then that Bourne would include the prints in his seventh and last album.

Preservation of the albums is important. The AGO has stored its trio in special boxes to protect them from light and pollutants. Chemical deterioration of the photographs remains a serious concern. The boards used as pages in the albums are acidic and are slowly destroying the photographs. Fortunately most of the photographs are mounted facing each other, thereby mutually protecting their front surface. This was substantiated by the deterioration apparent where there is no companion photograph or the two facing prints are not fully aligned. Non buffered tissues have since been inserted between the album pages to slow the inevitable deterioration. An AGO conservator has inspected the albums closely and concluded that the prints are attached with a paste in what appears to be a very professional and high quality manner.

Jules mentioned that Bourne’s articles in the BJP were a primary research source. His writings are like long journal entries (he did not leave any personal journals). The articles cite the details of traveling the Himalayas including the number of porters needed to carry provisions, equipment, chemicals, duplicates in case of a disaster, etc. One of his articles described the use of mussuckmen to ferry supplies across the river Beas. His photograph of the mussuckmen, their mussucks (inflated buffalo hides) harnessed on their backs is a favourite of those interested in exotic subjects. This link takes you to another site showing mussucks drawn/taken by others.

Jules wrapped up her presentation with a Q&A session enjoyed by everyone. Stay tuned to the AGO web site to see how the tale of the Bourne Albums unfolds.


This page was designed in Dreamweaver CS5 on an iMac running OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard). Unless otherwise noted, images on this page were taken during the presentation with a Sony NEX5 digital still camera and subsequently adjusted in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom V3.2 and Photoshop CS5. Presentation images are ©2010 by Ms Pascoe and may not be used without her permission. Contents and all other images are ©2010 by the Photographic Historical Society of Canada and may be used freely provided the source is clearly indicated. Copies of photographs displayed during this presentation may not be used without the copyright holder's permission. Contact PHSC at info@phsc.ca if you would like more information on the items discussed on this page. Click any image to see a larger view. Click any link for a more detailed article.

Bob Carter

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