In their 1955 edition of The History of Photography Helmut and Alison Gernsheim noted that the work of Samuel Bourne has ‘undeservedly fallen into oblivion’. They recognized the outstanding quality of the photographs produced on Bourne's excursions in India during the 1860s, including three arduous treks into the western Himalayas. By drawing on the young Englishman's own engaging accounts of his exploits in the mountains — a series of articles published in The British Journal of Photography — the Gernsheims were able to provide ‘an impression of a truly unique achievement’.1 This initial effort to rescue Bourne from the limbo of forgotten landscapists was continued some twenty years later when his expeditionary work was featured in Ann Turner's BBC television series, ‘Pioneers of Photography’, which was brought out in book form by Aaron Scharf in 1976.2 Other serious examinations of Bourne's photographs soon followed, the most significant of these being Arthur Ollman's brief but excellent monograph published in conjunction with an exhibition sponsored by the Friends of Photography in California.3 While the collective writings on Bourne thus ensured his entry into the mainstream of photo-history and provided the groundwork for future studies, numerous questions still remained unanswered regarding Bourne's entry into the photographic trade in India, his professional success, and the impact of his work on his contemporaries. Moreover, previous discussions of the artist's pictorial accomplishments have been limited to selected works with little or no investigation of the possible meanings attached to variations of formats and subtly interrelated series of images, including their cultural and social significance.4

  • 1. Helmut Gernsheim, The History of Photography from the Earliest Use of the Camera Obscura in the Eleventh Century up to 1914, in collaboration with Alison Gernsheim, London and New York: Oxford University Press 1955, 215-18. Bourne's articles in The British Journal of Photography (hereafter BJP) are as follows: 'Photography in the East', BJP, 1 July 1863, 268-70; 9 September 1863, 345-7 (BJP 0); 'Ten Weeks with the Camera in the Himalayas', BJP, 1 February 1864, 50-1; 15 February 1864,69-70 (BJP I); 'Narrative of a Photographic Journey to Kashmir (Cashmere) and Adjacent Districts', BJP, 5 October 1866, 474-5; 19 October 1866, 498-9; 2 November 1866, 524-5; 28 November 1866, 559-60, 7 December 1866, 583-4; 28 December 1866, 617-19; 4 January 1867, 4-5; 25 January 1867, 38-9; 8 February 1867, 63-4 (BJP II); 'A Photographic Journey through the Higher Himalayas', BJP, 26 November 1869, 570; 3 December 1869, 579-80; 17 December 1869, 603; 24 December 1869, 613-14; 31 December 1869, 628-9; 14 January 1870, 15-16,28 January 1870, 39-40; 28 February 1870, 75-6; 4 March 1870, 98-9; 18 March 1870, 125-6; 1 Apri11870, 149-50 (BJP III).
  • 2. Aaron Scharf, Pioneers of Photography: An Album of Pictures and Words, by arrangement with the British Broadcasting Corporation, New York: H. A. Abrams 1976, 87-102.
  • 3. Arthur Oilman, Samuel Bourne: Images of India, Carmel, California: Friends of Photography 1983; see also Oilman's, 'Samuel Bourne: The Himalayan Images 1863-69', Creative Camera, No. 226 (October 1983), 1122-9. See also Roger Taylor, Samuel Bourne, 1834-1912: Photographic Views in India, Sheffield: Sheffield Polytechnic 1980, and Susan I. Williams, Samuel Bourne: In Search of the Picturesque, Williamstown: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute 1981.
  • 4. The author engaged in his own extensive study of Bourne's Indian photographs in order to explore these issues: G. D. Sampson, 'Samuel Bourne and Nineteenth-Century British Landscape Photography in India', Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Santa Barbara 1991.