wiki:Bourne & Shepherd

Version 3 (modified by Lawrence Liang, 9 years ago) (diff)

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Bourne & Shepherd

Calcutta-based company; oldest and most prominent still photography dealers in India, set up in 1840 as a studio by Samuel Bourne. Charles Shepherd and A. Robertson started a Photographic Artists Studio in Agra (1862) which became Howard & Bourne in Simla (1863) and finally Bourne & Shepherd in Calcutta (1868). Both were photographers, making portraits of political and arts personalities, urban scenes of Calcutta and royal Durbars and were dealers in equipment and stock. They produced photographic variants of Company School painting for the popular art market: Hiralal Sen’s career started when he won a Bourne & Shepherd photography competition in 1887.

Their nationwide distribution and processing/ printing network was one of the first to expand into film (by 1900) when, with the Bombay- based Clifton & Co., they started showing movies in their studios. Mainly sold or hired out equipment by Pathé-Freres, Gaumont and the Barker Motion Picture Co., aggressively marketing their services and making professional cameramen and crews available to shoot events of state or private importance on commission from the government, Indian royalty or business magnates (e.g. Pundalik, 1912). Until the establishment of Pathé (India) in 1907, companies like Bourne & Shepherd occasionally worked as agents for the Pathé Exchange, the International Newsreel Corp. and Fox Films, purchasing locally made documentaries for them as ‘News’ films, or the cheaper ‘Review’ films. The first extensively filmed public event in India, the British Royal Family’s visit in 1911 (shot by Patankar, Hiralal Sen, Madan Theatres and others) was also shot by the company: Their Imperial Majesties in Delhi (1911)

History

Samuel Bourne came to India in 1863, and set up a partnership with an established Calcutta photographer, William Howard, and they set up a new studio ‘Howard & Bourne’ at Shimla. Meanwhile Charles Shepherd, had already established a photographic studio, with Arthur Robertson, called ‘Shepherd & Robertson’ in Agra in 1862, and subsequently he too moved to Shimla in 1864. At some point Robertson left the business and Charles Shepherd, joined Bourne company to form ‘Howard, Bourne & Shepherd’. In 1863, he made first of three major Himalayan photographic expeditions, followed by another one 1866, prior to which he took an expedition to Kashmir in 1864, in fact all photographic histories of that era carry his works [15]. He was known to travel heavy, as he moved with a large retinue of 42 coolies carried his cameras, darkroom tent and chests of chemicals and glass plates, he was to become one of India's greatest photographers of that era [16]. Charles on the other hand became known as a master printer, he stayed back in Shimla and managed the commercial distribution and printing aspects of the business [17]. Through the 1860s, Bourne’s work was exhibited in public exhibition in Europe and was also part of the Paris Universal Exposition in 1867. He also wrote several despatches for 'The British Journal of Photography between' 1863-1870 [3][18], and the company became an avid provider of the Indian landscape views to the common visitors to the country and also to Britishers back home [19], and not just survived but the thrived in an era of fierce competition between commercial photographers [9].

In 1866 after the departure of Howard, the company became ‘Bourne & Shepherd’. In 1867 Bourne returned to England briefly to get married and came back to run the new branch in Calcutta [20], soon it became the company premier photographic studios in India, at their peak their work was widely retailed throughout the subcontinent by agents and in Britain through wholesale distributors [4], and were patronized by the upper echelons of the British Raj as well as Indian royalty, so much so that at one point no official engagement, investiture or local durbar was considered complete without being first captured Bourne & Shepherd photographers [21].

In 1870, the year when Bourne went back to England [22], Bourne and Shepherd were operating from Shimla and Calcutta. Soon he started cotton-doubling business at Nottingham, and founded the Britannia Cotton Mills, and also become a local magistrate. He sold off his shares in studios, and left commercial photography all together; we also left behind his archive of some 2,200 glass plate negatives with the studio, which were constantly re-printed and sold, over the following 140 years, until their eventual destruction, in a fire at Bourne & Shepherd’s present studio in Calcutta, on February 6, 1991. After Bourne’s departure, new photographic work was undertaken by Colin Murray from 1840 to 84, following which in 1870s Charles Shepherd continued to photograph and at least sixteen Europeans are listed as assistants.

Later the Bombay branch was opened in about 1876, operated by Charles Shepherd until his own departure from India around 1879, the branch continued operations till about 1902. In 1880, they even brought their services to as far as Lahore for a month, where they advertised in a local newspaper, in fact newspaper advertising has been a primary reason of the success of many photographers of that era [23]. Soon their work was widely retailed throughout the subcontinent by agents and in Britain through wholesale distributors [4]. Between 1870 and 1911 the firm sent photographers to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Burma, Nepal and Singapore, had also become Art Publishers, with titles like 'Photographs of Architecture of Gujarat and Rajputana' (1904-5) [24], and were now employing Indian photographers as well [25].

In 1911, they were the official photographers of the Delhi Durbar held to commemorate the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary as Emperor and Empress of India, where they were given the title, 'Kaiser-e-Hind' which they still use as part of their official letterhead. During World Wars the studio thrived on the contracts for photographing Indian, British and American services personnel [26].

In the following years, the studio changed hands several times, so much so the sequence of owners has been all but lost, however the last European owner, Arthur Musselwhite who took over the studio in 1930s [26], later after a major business slump following the independence, and exodus of European community and the end of princely states, he held an auction in 1955, in which it was bought over by its present owners, and today the building itself is a heritage property [13].

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