Samuel Bourne (England, 1834-1912): "Vishnu Pud and Other Temples near the Burning Gat, Benares."
Albumen print, approximately 8-3/4 x 11 inches, circa 1865.
These temples are located on the banks of the Ganges in the holy city of the Hindus, now called Varanasi. The ghats are steps to the river, the "burning ghat" being a place for cremations. The umbrellas shelter holy men who help pilgrims with rituals.
This beautifully-composed photograph, teeming with activity, is certainly among Bourne's finest and most observant works. Another copy, in the collection of the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, was published in Masters of Early Travel Photography by Rainer Fabian and Hans-Christian Adam (Vendome Press, New York: 1983) and also appeared on the front of the book's dust-jacket. A print of the image in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum was published in The Golden Age of British Photography, 1839-1900 (Aperture: 1984).
Bourne's career as a photographer began in Britain in the 1850s. He made a series of photographic expeditions in India from 1863 through 1866. Bourne returned to England to marry in 1867 but went back to Calcutta to operate a branch of his studio, Bourne & Shepherd. Three years later, he settled permanently in England. Bourne retired in 1896 to devote the remainder of his life to watercolor painting.
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