In recognition of 70 years of Indian independence, Getty Images Gallery presents a selection of the earliest photographic views of the subcontinent. The landscapes and portraits were photographed predominantly by Europeans keenly aware of the increasingly exotic tastes of their Western audience. As such, the style and composition of the works reflect a somewhat romantic aesthetic familiar to the Victorian era tourists and temporary residents seeking a distinctive memento of their time in this captivating country.
Much of the material for Indian Treasures was sourced from the Getty Archive’s fabled Vintage Room. Highlights include four large period albums, recently restored, revealing proud Maharajahs bedecked in pearls and precious stones as well as dozens of vintage large-format glass plate negatives and albumen prints. The exhibition also features color prints made using the rarely seen photocrom process. Producing the exhibition was a truly collaborative effort between the Archive’s editors, conservator, darkroom and the Gallery.
Advances in photographic equipment and chemistry throughout the later 19th century led to an explosion of amateur photographic societies in urban centers around the globe, including Bombay, now Mumbai. Simultaneously, professional photographers such as Samuel Bourne took advantage of the new, less cumbersome cameras and more stable chemistry to photograph increasingly distant locations. Closer to home, professional studios produced high quality portraits for sitters of all classes. The Maharajahs featured in Indian Treasures are believed to have been photographed during a London visit, probably for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
Each of the original prints on display has been faithfully copied and reproduced using the latest darkroom and printing techniques. The museum quality reproductions, which are available for purchase in a range of sizes, allow the public to fully explore and enjoy these sublime photographs, free of their bound volumes and away from their traditional archival home.