Traces of India (Photography, Architecture, and The Politics of Representation, 1850-1900)

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Item Code: NAJ263
Author: Maria Antonella Pelizzari
Publisher: Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2003
ISBN: 9788188204144
Pages: 344 (Throughout Color and B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11 inch X 9.5 inch
Weight 2 kg
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About the Book


This book investigates the different cultural roles played by photographs of Indian architecture from the latter half of the nineteenth century, an Inquiry stretching from their pre-history to their migration Into book illustrations. calendar art, and religious Imagery.


Beyond the apparent purposes of these images - as picturesque views, scientific records of an architectural past. political memorials, travel mementos, textbook vignettes deeper considerations Influenced the way their makers worked in selecting, framing, composing, and populating their representations. Shaping the viewer’s thinking about what they represented, these images remain enduring records of a way of seeing, of minds as well as monuments, and exist today as artefacts of the visual culture of colonialism.


Twelve essays from scholars working In several disciplines (history, anthropology. art history, and the history of photography) show how photographs of architecture reveal the inescapable ways in which the practice of image making IS aligned with the purposes of power, the presumptions accompanying the encounter with strangeness, the Internal order of the colonial and the scientific mind, and even our metaphysical dispositions toward the world.


About the Author


Maria Antonella Pelizzari is Associate Curator of Photographs at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Montreal; Julia Ballerini is an independent scholar and lecturer based In New York City; Stephe Bann is Professor of History of Art at the University of Bristol and a Fellow of the British Academy; Partha Chatterjee is Director of the Centre for Studies In Social Sciences, Calcutta, and Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. New York City; Janet Dewan is a photographic researcher and historian based In Toronto; Nicholas B. Dirks is Franz Boas Professor of History and Anthropology at Columbia University. New York City; John Falconer is Curator of Photographs at the Oriental and India Office Collections of the British library. London; Sophie Gordon is Associate Curator of the Alkazi Collection of Photography. London; Tapati Guha-Thakurta is Professor at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences. Calcutta; Narayani Gupta is Professor in the Department of History and Culture at Jamia Millia lslamia University. New Delhi; Peter H. Hoffenberg is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Hawaii. Manoa; Thomas R. Metcale is Professor of History and Sarah Kailath Professor of India Studies at the University of California. Berkeley; and Christopher Pinney is Senior Lecturer in Material Culture In the Department of Anthropology, University College. London.




The present volume and the exhibition it accompanies represent an inquiry into the relation between early photographs of Indian architecture and the cultural imperatives of empire and after. This project was initiated at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in response to questions raised by the extraordinary corpus of Indian material in its collection. This varied body of images has a particular emphasis on the first generation of photographic investigations of monuments in India, as the idea of empire was forming. As with all areas of the CCA’S photographic collections, these suites, single images, and albums were chosen for their capacity to reveal the changing characteristics, intent, and qualities of observation. It was this unique focus of the collection that triggered the interdisciplinary approach of the project, which now adds to the growing body of critical literature on the politics of cultural representation.


A selection of photographs dating from 1850 to 1900 - works drawn both from the CCA collection and from institutions whose holdings contextualize, complete, or inform the discourse suggested by materials from the CCA - established the basis for the exhibition and publication. These images produced by amateur photographers, British military surveyors, and professional or commercial studios have been considered in light of relationships between visual documentation and knowledge, objects and artefacts, original images and their reproductions, buildings, and histories. In order to examine the transformation and persistence of representational conventions and of the monuments themselves, they have also been compared with earlier representations of Indian sites - paintings and printed views created before the advent of photography - and with later illustrations produced for a mass audience. These images have contributed to the construction of a second sense of nationhood among an extraordinarily diverse collection of peoples and traditions. By contextualizing the photographs in this way, Traces of India and the exhibition it accompanies serve as a model of how the CCA hopes to approach its collection as a dynamic engine for driving new cultural inquiries.


The radically different perspectives of the writers, like the differing intentions and uses of the images themselves, begins to construct a view in the round of South Asia and of its complex politics of place and memory. In particular, they have approached photography of the monuments as a reflection of India in the period between the r840s and the r880s, as a modernizing society; as evidence of the nineteenth-century sense of “science” as a basis for survey and inquiry; and as a crucial vehicle for laying the historical foundations - real or imagined - on which an ordered empire, rather than an assemblage of colonial trading relationships, might be constructed. A long series of discussions between the editor and curator, Maria Antonella Pelizzari, and scholars, including a three-day working seminar in June 2000, was central to the development of this approach. The result, we believe, brings a new optic to the study of photography in this era.


Early in the development of Traces of India the Yale Center for British Art expressed a desire to share the exhibition and co-publish this volume. It has been a rewarding collaboration. We are very grateful to Amy Meyers, Director; Constance Clement, Deputy Director; Beth Miller, Associate Director for Development and External Affairs; Scott Wilcox, Curator of Prints and Drawings; and Elisabeth Fairman, Curator of Rare Books and Archives, for their sustained support and enthusiasm for this project.




This volume of essays takes a broadly interdisciplinary approach to the study of nineteenth-century photographs of ancient monuments, sites of rebellion, and colonial memorials of British India. Produced by travellers, military surveyors, and professional studios at an early phase in the history of the medium, the photographs under consideration eloquently document the vast number of regions and architectures of the Indian subcontinent - from Mughal, Iain, and Sikh monuments in the north to Hindu temples in the southern region of Tamil Nadu to other Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist monuments in central India. Contributions by historians of photography and by scholars who represent the social sciences and colonial studies have been assembled here with the intent of bringing this remarkable body of early photographs into the context of larger debates about colonialism’s cultural technologies and the production of national histories.


Photography was introduced into India soon after its invention in Europe in r839. This modern technology was shared by a select population of amateurs, officers, engineers, and scholars living in India and yet culturally rooted in Europe. When photography was added to the curriculum of the military academy at Addiscombe (Surrey) in r855, it was clear that directors of the East India Company considered it to be the most accurate and efficient medium for recording topographical information formerly known only through drawings and watercolour renderings. Survey photographers documented sites and monuments, developing a vast archive of images that inspired more specialized and scholarly inquiry into the history of the art and architecture of ancient India. These studies spawned the first institutions devoted to India’s architectural heritage, which led to more scientific historiographic research as well as new museological and display practices. Soon photography would also be pressed into the service of chronicling the complex history of the British in India, including the crises and conflicts that led to political independence.


Following in the footsteps of artists travelling in India before them, photographers thus became the agents of a complex process by which eyewitness experience of the unknown, the ancient, and the exotic was recorded and became part of a growing body of knowledge about the character of India. The images they produced belonged to a field of cultural production that included inventories and scholarly research; museum collections of architectural fragments, casts, and other types of reproduction; photographic archives; and picturesque views of a more commercial nature. Operating on a number of different levels, photographs of architectural monuments and historical sites intersected significantly with the British project of colonizing the Indian subcontinent.


There is no parallel for the comprehensive body of images produced over a half century to document India’s dual histories - the palimpsest of its ancient past and that of British colonization. These photographs established a corpus of architectural monuments located along fixed travel itineraries and seem to obey a consistent representational logic. In them can be traced the record of the evolution of specialized academic disciplines - the history of art and architecture, archaeology, anthropology, studies in comparative religion, linguistics, and epigraphy. They stand as both a coherent record of India during British colonization and a mirror image of British society simultaneously undergoing massive transformation.


In this regard it must be said that India stands as a very particular case in colonial studies. It was brought under British control at the very moment when developments in the sciences, technology, scholarly disciplines, and commerce made available the means to systematically study and exploit its highly complex cultural heritage along with its natural resources. In particular, the modern medium of photography lent itself to visualizing with greater accuracy discoveries and transformations that would inevitably occur in the process of colonization. The authors contributing to this volume have taken up a wide range of examples of this intersection between the production of colonial knowledge and the production of photographs in India during the second half of the nineteenth century. Their provocative approaches effectively reposition photographic practices in relation to debates on representation and colonialism. After “From Stone to Paper:’ a visual essay that aims to orient the reader to the general approach adopted in this volume (as in the exhibition that parallels it), the book is organized around four themes based upon rare folios, albums, and sets of photographs in the collection of the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA): PROJECTING INDIA, CAPTURING INDIA’S PAST, and MEMORIALIZING THE RAJ deal with photography produced in British India, whereas REIMAGINING INDIA assesses the legacy of the colonial archive in relation to postcolonial photographic practices and official visual culture in post- independence India.


In “From Stone to Paper” I introduce a series of key images that are set within the social, historical, and political milieu of the Raj and read through Bernard Cohn, a thinker whose work has proved especially useful in the development of this book. M y readings reflect on the value of photographs as cultural artefacts through comparisons with various types of image, whether other photographs in the CCA collection or illustrations in nineteenth-century newspapers, history books, postcards, and ephemera. From this one achieves a deeper understanding of the complex values of photographs in the age of mechanical reproduction - as authenticating agents of experience, as evidential proof in scholarly endeavours, and as vehicles of collective memory. Such meanings are revisited in post-independence India to verify how visual culture can contribute to the creation of imagined communities and nations.


Projecting India begins by looking back to the latter decades of the eighteenth century, when European artists first began to depict the landscape and ruined monumental architecture of British India. The essays by art historian Stephen Bann and historian of photography Julia Ballerini reflect on the modern impulse to visualize places remote in time and space, inquiring into how European aesthetic conventions mediated the experience of exotic and unfamiliar sights - and, conversely, how European visual culture was transformed by the shift from artists’ renderings to the new medium of photography.


Stephen Bann considers the work of British landscape painter William Hedges (r744-97), who under the patronage of Governor-General Warren Hastings travelled throughout the subcontinent in the early 1780s making sketches, thus becoming one of the earliest European artists known to have worked in India. Many of these sketches were later developed into painted canvases and aqua tints and engravings, two of which appeared in his A Dissertation on the Prototypes of Architecture) Hindoo, Moorish, and Gothic (r787). Locating Hedges between the established tradition of British landscape painting and the new medium of photography, Bann goes beyond accepted interpretations of early views of India as exclusively picturesque compositions projecting Western pictorial conventions onto an unknown landscape. While acknowledging that Hedges was indeeda product of his European artistic education, Bann suggests that his work can also be traced within the tradition of seventeenth-century British antiquarianism. Bann regards the shift from art to photography not as a linear progression from picture to picture nor as evidence of a radical initiation of the modern “observer;’ but rather as the material intensification of the antiquarian’s impulse to illustrate place. Like fine printmaking in the eighteenth century, the new technology of photography invested with authority the desire to “preserve the memory of things.”


Over a half century after Bodges and a decade after the invention of photography, Baron Alexis de La Grange (r825-1917), a French aristocrat travelling in British India between 1849 and 1851, produced some of the earliest photographs of India. At the end of his sojourn, La Grange compiled two albums of images, “Photographies de l’Inde Anglaise” and “Souvenirs de l’Inde Anglaise.” Julia Ballerini looks at La Grange’s journey, apparently undertaken in the spirit of the Grand Tour of ancient sites in Italy, Greece, and Egypt, reading it through the lens of the social and cultural milieu of mid-nineteenth-century Paris, where class struggles threatened to alter centuries-old social and economic relations, leading many aristocrats to abandon themselves to extended travel in the Orient. Ballerini argues that La Grange’s use of the camera to record and order observations of the “chaos and ruin” he witnessed in India expressed the anxieties of an entire social class during this era.












From Stone to Paper: Photographs of Architecture and the Traces of History


Part One: Projecting India


Antiquarianism, Visuality, and the Exotic Monument: William Hodges’s A Dissertation


Rites of Passage: A Frenchman’s Albums of British India


Part Two: Capturing India’s Past


The Compulsions of Visual Representation in Colonial India


“This Noble Triumph of Photography”: Linnaeus Tripe’s Thanjavur Inscription Panorama


Pattern of Photographic Surveys: Joseph Lawton in Ceylon John Falconer


Photography and Architecture at the Calcutta International Exhibition


Part Three: Memorializing the Raj


Colonial Amnesia and the Old Regime in the Photographs of Linnaeus Tripe


Pictorializing the “Mutiny” of 1857


Monuments and Memorials: Lord Curzon’s Creation of a Past for the Raj


Part Four: Reimagining India


Some Indian “Views of India”: The Ethics of Representation


The Sacred Circulation of National Images






Biographical Notes: Photographers and Artists Working in India









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