Captain Linnaeus Tripe:
Photographer of India and Burma, 1852-1860
Part of the V&A India Festival 24 June – 11 October 2015
Tripe (1822-1902) was a pioneer of early
photography who created an outstanding body of work
depicting the landscape and architecture of India and
Burma (now Myanmar) in the 1850s. This major
presentation of Tripe’s photographs will include more than
60 of his most striking views taken between 1852 and 1860.
On display will be Tripe’s photographs of architectural sites
and monuments, ancient and contemporary religious and secular buildings, as well as roads,
bridges, moats, landscape vistas and geological formations throughout India and Burma. Many of
the images are the first photographic records of these sites and the prints on view represent the
highlights of Tripe’s output. They will be shown alongside bound albums of his work, a panoramic
scroll and two models of monuments similar to his subjects.
Linnaeus Tripe was born in 1822 in Devon, the ninth of 12 children, joining the East India Company
army in 1839 and stationed in India throughout the 1840s. He learned to photograph during several
years on leave in England in the early 1850s. The exhibition will highlight Tripe’s considerable skill
at a time when photography was about to undergo rapid change and the practice and recognition
was becoming more widely adopted. It will also show his understanding that photography could
be used to convey information about unknown cultures and places to the general public.
The photographs on view represent two major expeditions and preserve an important period in
Indian, Burmese and British history. In 1855 Tripe was appointed by the governor-general of India to
accompany a mission to Burma to study the area. Here Tripe became the first person to
photograph the region’s remarkable architecture and landscapes. He then went on to be the first to
photograph extensively in south India after his subsequent appointment as photographer to the
Madras government. Through this official role Tripe aimed to capture as much of the south Indian
region as possible. After each trip he returned with more than 200 large format paper negatives,
from which he carefully oversaw the complex printing in his Bangalore studio that he founded for
Amerapoora: Colossal Statue of Gautama Close to the North End of
the Wooden Bridge, 1855, Collection of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro
Tripe’s photographs are technically complex and he is known for his innovative precision with the
camera, paying close attention to both his composition and its realisation when printing.
atmospheric effects Tripe retouched most of his negatives by applying pigment in thin layers and
included in the exhibition will be a selection of waxed-paper negatives that reveal these working
methods. Also on display will be a segment of a panoramic scroll showing the inscriptions around
the base of the Great Pagoda temple in Tanjore. Composed of more than 20 prints assembled and
mounted onto a long canvas scroll, it is now regarded as a considerable technical achievement,
given the physical and climatic conditions of the time.
Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1852-1860 is organized jointly by the
National Gallery of Art, Washington and and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in
association with the V&A. It includes photographs from the collections of the National Gallery of
Art, the Metropolitan Museum, the British Library and many private lenders, as well as
photographs and objects from the V&A’s own extensive collection of Tripe’s works.