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Camera Indica: The Social Life of Indian Photographs (Envisioning Asia)
A wedding couple gazes resolutely at viewers from the wings of a butterfly; a portrait surrounded by rose petals commemorates a recently deceased boy.81% (11)
These quiet but moving images represent the changing role of photographic portraiture in India, a topic anthropologist Christopher Pinney explores in Camera Indica. Studying photographic practice in India, Pinney traces photography's various purposes and goals from colonial through postcolonial times. He identifies three key periods in Indian portraiture: the use of photography under British rule as a quantifiable instrument of measurement, the later role of portraiture in moral instruction, and the current visual popular culture and its effects on modes of picturing. Photographic culture thus becomes a mutable realm in which capturing likeness is only part of the project. Lavishly illustrated, Pinney's account of the change from depiction to invention uncovers fascinating links between these evocative images and the society and history from which they emerge.
New Deal, Montana: Fort Peck Dam, Diversion Tunnel
1) Margaret Bourke-White, New Deal, Montana: Fort Peck Dam, Diversion Tunnel, 1936. Gelatin silver print, 19 1/2 x 14 inches. Courtesy of the Margaret Bourke-White Collection, Syracuse University Library, Department of Special Collections. © Margaret Bourke-White/TimePix. 2) Margaret was born on June 14th, 1904, in the Bronx, New York. Her father, Joseph White, was an inventor and engineer, and her mother, Minnie Bourke, was forward thinking woman, especially for the early 1900's. When Margaret was very young, the family moved to a rural suburb in New Jersey, so that Joseph could be closer to his job. Margaret, along with her sister Ruth, were taught from an early age by their mother. Her mother was strict in monitoring their outside influences, limiting everything from fried foods to funny papers. When Margaret was eight, her father took her inside a foundry to watch the manufacture of printing presses. While in the foundry, she saw some molten iron poured. This event filled Margaret with joy, and this memory would be burned in her mind for years to come. The White's home was filled with his photographs. If something interested Margaret's father, it also interested her. She pretended as a girl to take photographs with an empty cigar box. Although she claimed that she never took a photograph until after her father's death. Her cousin Florence remembers her helping her father to develop prints in his bathtub. In 1917, her father suffered a stroke. By 1919, he had recovered enough for the family to take a trip to Niagara Falls and Canada. While there, she began to make notes on his photographs, and helped him set up shots on several occasions. In 1921, she began college at Rutgers, then moved to the University of Michigan, then to Cornell University, from which she graduated in 1927. As a freshman at Michigan, she began taking pictures for the yearbook, and within a year was offered the seat of photography editor. Instead of taking the position, she married an engineering graduate student, Everett Chapman, and abandoned photography to pursue married life. When the marriage fell apart two years later, she moved to Cornell, where she again took up photography. After she graduated in 1927, she moved to Cleveland, where her family was living, to start her career with a portfolio full of architecture pictures she had taken while at Cornell. She called upon several architects who were Cornell alumni for jobs. After the success of her first job, she founded the Bourke-White studio in her one room apartment. Then, money she made from shooting elegant home and gardens by day was spent on photographing steel mills at night and on the weekends. The circulation of her portfolio brought her to the attention of Cleveland's biggest industrial tycoons. After a few failures, she was successful at capturing the Otis Steel mill. From this, she made enough money to move her studio to the Terminal Tower skyscraper. In the spring of 1929, she received a telegram from Henry R. Luce, a publisher who was planning a new weekly magazine called Time. Luce invited her to come to New York so they could meet, and so Bourke-White could see what Time was to accomplish. She was unimpressed, but Luce and his editor Parker Lloyd- Smith were also planning a new business magazine that would make use of dramatic industrial photographs. She accepted their offer as a staff photographer. In July1929, the decision was made to publish the magazine, called Fortune. Bourke-White began working on stories for the premier issue, eight months away. The first lead story was to feature Swift & Co., a hog processing plant. She worked with Lloyd-Smith until he became too sick from the stench to continue. After Bourke-White was finished photographing the hogs, she left most of her camera equipment to be burned. Her documentation of this was a step in the development of the photo essay, and Bourke-White's style. In 1930, Russia was in the midst of an industrial and cultural revolution. It's doors were all but closed to westerners, especially photographers. Bourke-White was attracted to Russia, but her editors at Fortune doubted that she would gain access. They instead sent her to Germany to photograph the emerging industry there. She decided that she would go on her own, and after six weeks of waiting, her visa had cleared the Soviet bureaucracy. Russia was full of red tape for her. Fortunately, an official was so impressed with her portfolio that he granted her a permit requiring all Soviet citizens to aid and assist Bourke-White whenever she needed it. Over the next five weeks, she traveled all over Russia, capturing dams, factories, farms, and their workers. She had taken nearly three thousand negatives of Russia, the first complete documentary of the newly emerging Soviet Russia. In the summer of 1931, she was invited back to Russia by the government. This time through Russia, she concentrated not on machinery, but on people. The New York Times Sunday Mag46. ‘Palace and monastery, Leh. View looking towards the rocky outcrop on which the palace and monastery stand’ (1873)
‘Palace and monastery, Leh. View looking towards the rocky outcrop on which the palace and monastery stand’ (1873) © The British Library Board, All Rights Reserved, Photo 355/1 (88). Photographer, Edward Francis Chapman (Sept. 1873, also available online via British Library catalogue). 'The Yarkand Mission of 1873-74 was sent by the government of India ostensibly to conclude a commercial treaty with the Amir of Yarkand and Kashghar. The Amir, Yakub Beg, had set up an independent kingdom within Chinese Turkestan, which was to be short-lived. The mission was under the command of Sir T. D. Forsyth of the Bengal Civil Service, who wrote an accompanying report, Forsyth, T.D., 'Report of a Mission to Yarkund in 1873' (Calcutta 1875). The mission had a deeper purpose, it was also to gather sufficient intelligence about this largely unknown area so as to be a step ahead of the Russians in what came to be called the Great Game, the struggle between Great Britain and Russia for mastery over Central Asia. The Mission would obtain geographical and historical information on the area, as well as survey its natural resources, while pressing diplomatic relations on the principalities that they traversed via Kashmir through Tibet into Chinese Turkestan. Situated on an ancient trade route at the crossroads of Asia in the high Himalayas near the Indus river, Leh is the capital of the cold desert region of Ladakh, in the eastern part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Among Forsyth’s subordinates on the 1873-74 expedition were Francis Edward Chapman (secretary), who made a report on the photographic side of the mission's work (Chapter X). Chapman writes that when the mission was first formed it was decided, no doubt for reasons of economy, to hire a 'qualified Native Photographer' to document the expedition. This however proved difficult and it was therefore decided that members of the mission would undertake the work. Chapman and Trotter, therefore, 'provided themselves, through Messrs. Lyell & Co., with 7?x4? inch cameras and with chemicals, etc., for the preparation of some 400 plates...Subsequently, two sets of Mr Piazzi Smith's apparatus for taking small photographs for enlargement were ordered.' After consultation with the photographers Bourne & Shepherd of Simla, it was decided to use the standard wet plate process, although 'a certain number of dry plates were ordered from home from the Liverpool Dry Plate Company.' Charles Shepherd was also 'good enough to devote a good deal of time during May and June 1873 to Captain Chapman's instruction' and both officers 'desire prominently to acknowledge the assistance they have received from this gentleman, whose advice they have followed throughout.' It was also decided from the first not to attempt any printing during the expedition, but to send the negatives to Bourne & Shepherd, who would carry out the work. All cameras, chemicals and processing equipment were carried by mule throughout the journey. As to the photography itself, 'the greater number of the photographs obtained have been taken with Dallmeyer's wide-angle lens, the slide of the 7?"x4?" camera having warped so much under the weight of stereoscopic lenses, which were also provided, as to render them useless. The total number of negatives obtained is 110...The greater number of subjects being figures, the dry plates furnished with the equipment were not made use of, owing to the long exposure required with them, and as it was nearly always possible to employ the larger cameras, Professor Piazzi Smith's apparatus was not brought into use.' Among the difficulties encountered during photography in the field were weather conditions, and Chapman emphasises that 'the severity of the winter season and the difficulties attending photography on the line of march need to be appreciated;' however, 'in favour of the equipment and the process employed, it may be recorded that some of the negatives were obtained when the thermometer showed many degrees of frost, and that the camera was constantly used after a long march.' The religious sensitivities of the inhabitants had also to be taken into account, and in the main body of the report Forsyth notes that the missions scientific instruments - 'theodolites, photographic cameras, etc.' - 'might be looked on as only instruments of the black art.' As the Yarkundis became more used to the presence of Europeans, this suspicion dissipated: 'By degrees he [the Dadkhwah, Muhammad Yunus Jan] became accustomed to the idea of photography, and allowed Captains Chapman and Trotter to take likenesses of his soldiers, and even admitted the camera into the court-yard of his palace, taking good care however to preserve even the skirt of his garment from falling within the range of the photographer's lens.' (report, p. 7).
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