The People of India
During the year of 2005 and after an initial meeting with Pete James at Birmingham Central Library I was introduced to original copies of ‘The people of India’ that are held at the library. This mammoth publication, eight volumes in total, was brought together by John William Kaye and John Forbes Watson between 1868 and 1875, few complete sets of this extrodianry document exist today.
The books are full of pasted on albumen prints, 486 in total. These photographs would have been reproduced by contact printing from copy negatives. After the books conception every stage of production would have been a monumental achievement for the photographers, the writers, printers and editors.
The Victorian tone and derogitory text that accompany the beautiful photographs cause discomfort to many in the west these days but they are also a document of there time, recording for us and reminding us of British views of dominance and superiority. The words and the reasons for publication aside the stunning images will always remain a staggering photographic record that documented the diversity of the people who inhabited India for the centuries before colonisation.