I recently attended a meeting of the Historical Photographic Society and had the pleasure of seeing an image by one of my favourite Victorian adventurer-photographers. Samuel Bourne dragged his heavy wooden camera and tripod across rivers, deserts, up and down mountains, anywhere there was a subject he wanted to photograph. His images are superb. Perfect exposure, beautiful composition, while side-stepping everything the Indian subcontinent could throw at him. Along with men like Sache, and John Burke who has the distinction of being the first man to photograph Afghanistan–while following an army in the midst of its slaughter. When the British charged into Afghanistan, they had no idea of the difficulties facing them. They were cut to ribbons and John Burke captured it all. He photographed the living, the dead and the dying, shrinking from nothing, all the while carrying a heavy wooden tripod and large format camera.
Along with Sache, Bourne, Felice Beato, and a handful of others, these intrepid Raj photographers have given us a vision of British India that cannot be forgotten. In fact, I was so fascinated by them and their images that I ended up spending seven years on a novel set during the 1870s in the city of Lucknow, where one of the most important sieges of the Indian Mutiny took place.
The images mesmerized me and led me to study the era, India and early photography. Now this early technology and the sad, terrible war fought in 1857 has resulted in putting Victorian images into the form of an iBook that will soon be on the iBookstore, and will allow other people to see these poignant documents of a forgotten age in crisp sepia tones. The images become part of the story of Lucknow and the shadows of empire that darken a young Englishman’s life. For a free sneak preview, http://hudsonhousemysteries.com/downloads/SHADOWS_OF_EMPIRE_BY_ALAN_MCKEE.pdf: