The Tresidder Album: A Case Study of a Private “Ethnography''
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This article looks at a pivotal moment in the formation of ethnology in India — the early 1860s — and early representations of criminalized figures and populations in the recently introduced genre of the photographic album. I focus on the so-called Tresidder Album (1857–63), which is among the very few extant personal photographic narrations of Anglo-Indian life made just following a period of profound upheaval in English–Indian relations, the Uprising of 1857, when broad swaths of the Indian population rose up in rebellion against the British occupation. Compiled by John Nicholas Tresidder (1819–1889), a British East India Company surgeon stationed in the hard-hit northwestern city of Kanpur, this album offers an autobiographical framework within which, I argue, presentations of criminality must be read against war-inflected constructions of self and home. As one of the first collections to organize and caption photographs of people of interest, it prefigures the photographic ethnographies, such as Lord Charles John Canning's The People of India, which followed in the third quarter of the nineteenth century.
Uprising of 1857
The rebellion began on 10 May 1857 in the city of Meerut, in the modern state of Uttar Pradesh, in which disaffected Indian officers of the British army (known as sepoys) mutinied against their British military superiors. Over the course of the following year, various populations in northern India revolted against the British military presence, tethering the Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar (1775–1862) to the violent struggle as the figurehead of the movement. Though violence erupted throughout the North, resistance efforts were centered largely in the cities of Kanpur, Delhi, Lucknow, and Jhansi, resulting in a tremendous loss of life on both sides. In March 1858, British forces administered a pivotal defeat to Indian forces in Lucknow, and on the 8 July 1858, both parties signed a peace treaty, signaling the end of months of war and the resumption of British rule. One month later, under the provisions of the Government of India Act, passed on 2 August 1858, Queen Victoria wrested power from the mercantile regime of the British East India Company and replaced it with imperial British rule.
The Sepoy Mutiny/Uprising of 1857 formed a watershed in the Indian and British historical imagination, for it radically transformed the political relationship between the two countries. Consequently, the newly instituted British monarchy attempted to justify the legitimacy of its empire through the creation of rebels, heroes, villains, and victims. Early on, histories were compiled by British officers who fought to quell the uprising, and the process of defining the legitimacy of Anglo-Indian and sepoy actions in the Mutiny began.
By late 1857, events such as the massacre at Kanpur (Cawnpore), when members of the Anglo-Indian community were promised safe passage out of the war-torn city and were instead decimated and their bodies disposed of in a well, were widely publicized, as were the British East India Company’s devastating retaliatory measures. These were transformed from dispersed, discrete events into potent narrative junctures incorporated into the overarching tale of the Uprising, which was framed in terms that either justified or vilified sepoy and company actions in the war and the British presence in India after the war.
The construction of colonial relations in post-Uprising India rested on how the events of 1857 and 1858 were defined, whether as mutinous acts by a lone band of Indian soldiers that then grew to larger proportions or a wholesale Indian national uprising. The question of the conflict’s nature fueled legislative debates about the propriety of British methods of policing and military response and about the appropriate measures to quash or punish Indian insurrection. The following contribution to the Calcutta Review, in 1857, addresses the perceived harm of mischaracterizing the events of the Uprising: “Any misinterpretation of the character and the causes of the revolt of the Bengal sepoys, adopted by the British Government, would inevitably lead to yet direr calamities, and finally to the overthrow of a splendid empire.”
British colonial expansionism, by nature a coercive enterprise, required an equivalency of crown and law. Consequently, a language of criminality, justice, and morality dominated the legislative debates and determined the presentation of the Uprising in administrative documents, popular fiction, and news media. Within these forums, prints, drawings, and photographs served as sites for the rhetorical engagement of memory and history and the production of postwar legitimacy and criminality. Popular print publications were conscripted as sites for the construction of (cultural) memory,  offering space for trenchant commentary, and photographic exhibitions organized, eliciting commentary on the photographs’ historical necessity as remembrances of the war.
The Times of London dispatched the photographer and war correspondent William Russell to India, and Felice Beato, possibly at the request of the London War Office, photographed the aftermath of the violent Uprising. News of the war in newspapers and magazines and views of India’s landscape quite literally entered the British home, marketed as necessary information for the English citizen. The Uprising was cast as an invasion of the sanctified space of home and linked to a national project of raising awareness of the integrality of the Indian colony to the British state. Perhaps more important, the violation of Anglo-Indian homes reenacted through depiction permitted its imaginative revisitation in English homes through the medium of print.
The great mutiny of 1857–58, the aftermath of which was caught by photography, caused radical changes in the conceptualization of Indian citizenship and group typologies. Contemporary scientific theories on evolution ascribing low developmental states to criminal types came into conflict with contemporaneous desires to assign agency to principal players in the Uprising. This conceptual tension resulted in the coexistence of two categories of photographs: those in which individuality and culpability were assigned to specific anti-British agents in the Uprising and typological depictions, which muted agency and suppressed individuality.
This tension is particularly evident in the period from 1857 to the early 1860s, during which we see the formation of broad histories of the war — when private journals, correspondences, and other personal recollections of isolated events were collated by social critics into larger linear histories. During this time, British and Indian writers of histories began transforming separate moments into a causally related chain of events. The individual moments that are characteristic of personal recollections were given the self-evidence and inevitability inherent in the collated history.
This tension between assigning and suppressing subjectivity, which is apparent in textual narratives, can also be seen in Tresidder’s album. However, in order to analyze the album in terms of its contiguous epistemologies as both a quasi-ethnological and a personal document, I will first historicize the Victorian-era photographic album and its uses. Having located the medium within a particular moment, I will then turn to the album in question. Through the analysis of the organization of its photographs, captions, titling, and classificatory principles, I will argue that it demonstrates the shifting functions of the photograph as an ethnological register in the wake of the events of 1857 as an aide-mémoire, souvenir, and testament to forming personal and public histories of the rebellion.
The Victorian Photographic Album
As a repository for and vehicle to display images, the photographic album emerged soon after the advent of the camera, as early as 1840, just one year after the traditional date of the medium’s inception. The earliest came in a variety of sizes and imitated the layout of a book, employing opposed folios, binding, and rectangular or square formats. 
These albums were used as a means to showcase experiments in documentation and contained such specimens as contact copies of ferns and flowers, as well as portrait and landscape prints intended for limited consumption. The collected photographs were affixed to the album pages through the use of preset slots or a simple process of pasting.
By the mid-1850s, innovations in print technology resulted in the introduction of easy-to-circulate, inexpensive (often albumen) prints. Trafficking between the porous boundaries of the public and the private, photographs of celebrities, scenic or historic views, and exotica boosted the popularity of photographic albums in Western Europe and North America by the 1860s. In the Indian context, the British Library’s “Murray Collection: Views in Delhi, Cawnpore, Allahabad and Benares” (1857–60) and the “Tytler Collection” (although the photographs date from 1858, the year of the compilation of this album is unknown) reveal the inclusion of commercial photographs in private albums. Compiled and organized at home, these albums feature pasted-in albumen prints by the well-known photographers Dr. John Murray, Robert and Harriet Tytler, and Felice Beato and focus on sites of devastation cast as central to the narrative of the Uprising. Collectible photographic prints of sites associated with the Uprising were circulated among a limited group in India, and reappeared in a variety of private albums and collections.
Alternatively, the album was harnessed to more private, patently noncommercial uses, within which I locate what I refer to as the “family album,” which feature photographs of family, friends, and other subjects one now associates with the genre. Unlike premade albums, these required the arrangement and handiwork of the album owner. They generally featured photographs attributable to a member of the pictured family and focused on those with unique or very limited circulation prints.
Early on, photographic albums were marketed as necessary features of middle-class life, in tones that appealed to nationalism, patriotism, familial love, and other sentiments. Pictures of royalty, military heroes, and nobility were minted on the highly reproducible cartes de visite and incorporated into family albums, often with portraits of family and friends; this blurred the lines along which family and a larger national citizenship were drawn, characterized by one commentator as a “mild form of hero-worship and an illustrated book of genealogy.”
As a repository for often carefully crafted pictures of associates and family as well as famous people, the album displayed the tastes of its possessor, in a constellation ranging from political leanings to opinions of fashion, representing personal affiliations and ideologies. Both as a focus for solitary activity and as a site for photographic presentations of family, the album functioned as a class-bound articulation of mutually constitutive cultural and family values. Its affordability helped to bolster its accessibility, while, paradoxically, effective marketing (among other forces) bolstered its cultural currency as a status symbol; thus, the album became an aspect of social life and a marker of the Victorian upwardly mobile individual.
The process of presenting the album — displaying it, reciting stories from it, determining the appropriate length to pause on each page — was discussed and critiqued by contributors to photography journals by the early 1860s. The ceremonies surrounding its use began to be conventionalized very soon after its introduction, suggesting its performance as a potent medium in social activities. Etiquette dictated its placement within a drawing room, a place of meeting and conviviality.
As a point of pride among its owners, the album was engaged in the rituals of polite conversation. One Saturday Review contributor offered advice on the proper timing for taking down the album and poring through its pages with visitors, commending its efficacy as a prompt for “proper,” morally profitable conversation in polite company.
The ascription of moral and domestic values to the album, and its recommended placement in the drawing room, situates the personal album of the 1850s and 1860s between the modern binaries of public and private use. Its ceremonial use within the drawing room, an antechamber with the double purposes of screening the more private areas of the house from general guest viewing and serving as a reception room for friends and members of the community, suggests a public yet domestic functionality. The album, in its earliest forms, might be understood as a public-private item — a sort of conceptual twin to the domestic space of the drawing room. It was a site in which presentations of ideal (as in morally and socially profitable) and imagined (as in desired) communities and ideal and imagined selves collided and colluded, to face outward and present appearances and simultaneously to face inward and nourish fantasy and justify tastes and opinions.
Within the Indian context, there are few contemporary references to the use, display, or compilation of the early Anglo-Indian family album. However, it is possible to conjecture about its functions in India, based on analysis of the extant examples and an awareness of contemporary practices in Western Europe and the United States. As ideological spaces informed by personal and societal values, these albums represent a uniquely Anglo-Indian subspecies of the Victorian album, which is inflected by the context of their production and use in colonial post-Uprising India.
The Tresidder Album
The “Tresidder Album,” made just after the Uprising, functions as both a personal document and a testament to war. Unlike the Murray and Tytler albums, which feature only commercially produced pictures by the eponymous photographers, the Tresidder holds for the most part private images, thus providing insight into the values and ideological frameworks of its photographer-compiler.
John Nicholas Tresidder served in the Indian medical service from 1842 to 1877, during which time he was posted in the northern Indian city of Agra, in 1851, then in Kanpur, in 1854. Fortunately, he was on leave during the outbreak of violence in Kanpur, and upon his return in 1857, he returned to the post of Civil Surgeon. In 1861 Tresidder contracted cholera, which resulted in a two-year leave of absence. It was when he was recuperating in his native Falmouth that he may have put together this album.
The Tresidder Album features photographs of his time spent in residency in the war-torn city of Kanpur, in modern Uttar Pradesh, and his travels around the northwestern provinces. It consists of almost two hundred pages of albumen prints, with the inclusion of a few salt prints, amounting to about nine hundred and thirty. Though evidence suggests that, at least in the English context, women were largely responsible for album compilation, the historian John Fraser has attributed this one to Tresidder, circa 1861–63.
Details are unclear about his earliest experiments with photography, nor is much information available on his life. Though a personal diary is held in the Alkazi Collection, little can be gleaned from it. Much of the journal is illegible, and what is decipherable consists mainly of lists of supplies needed for medico-military operations.
The handwriting in the album has been attributed to Tresidder, who meticulously added captions to most prints and labeled the pages. Its brown morocco covering has been preserved, though in places the binding has unraveled. Effort has been made by the Alkazi Collection of Photography, in New Delhi, where it is now housed, to preserve the order of the folios, many of which feature Tresidder’s handwritten page numbers in the center of the top of the pages. Generally there are three or four prints per page and almost all are accompanied by a caption, usually handwritten directly beneath its picture. Most of the folios are titled, with categories ranging from city names to more familiar designations, such as “JNT’s Family.” The album is divided roughly into three sections: the first is photographs taken in India; the second features a diverse collection of prints and drawings of a type often seen in mid-nineteenth-century English albums, such as reproductions of William Hogarth’s paintings, and print illustrations of biblical stories; the third is devoted to photographs taken in Falmouth, England. In the discussion below, I focus on the section devoted to India.
Private Photographic Albums as Sites of Memorialization
The first section of Tresidder’s album, dedicated to India, opens to sixteen folios with pasted-in portraits of his family and of the Anglo-Indian community in Kanpur — self-portraits of the surgeon and his wife, Indian orderlies in the British medical service, and friends. Tresidder follows this personal section with folios that focus on Indian landscapes, relatable to the events of the Uprising through their accompanying captions. This section, unlike the others, enables us to date the photographs — through either Tresidder’s own handwritten captions or the analysis of the state of the monuments and landscapes depicted. The subject matter at the conclusion of the Indian section ranges from pictures of friends and family, to portraits of men convicted of anti-British activity in the Uprising, to picturesque landscapes.
On folios 1 and 149, bookending the India section and its alternating personal, picturesque, and even violent photographic representations of India, are portraits of Tresidder and his wife (figure 1). In the top photograph of the left-hand side of the first folio, Tresidder sits before a blank backdrop, resting on his lap a topi, the recently introduced headgear for the gentleman-officer of the British East India Company. He presents an image of colonial distinction — of a “man on the spot.”  On the last folio (figure 2) is another rather heroic depiction of self in which Tresidder sports a flowing beard and military wear and stands before a painted backdrop of tropical foliage and a picturesque river scene crowned by a tapered dome. Beneath this picture is the caption “How we dress in India.” Here again he presents himself as a pioneering officer, though more markedly rugged, an experienced agent of the British East India Company.
Photographic reminiscences of the mutiny and of Anglo-Indian life are seemingly enfolded into a larger narrative, that of Tresidder’s “experience of India,” and through the captions Tresidder activates the photographs as reflections of his life. Sandwiched between these folios are a host of themes, ranging from family pictures to portraits of servants, from scorched landscapes in Kanpur and Mutiny tombs and memorial statues. The pages function as a particular kind of personal geography in which the domesticity of the family album is intimately tied to the representation of India’s landscapes and communities, and they, in turn are implicated in Tresidder’s presentation of self and family.
Initially, the album reveals glimpses of an underlying organizing principle. The first folios, titled with rubrics such as “Personal” and “JNT’s Family,” construct affinity by adjacency. Images of his child and wife, friends, and community, along with his Indian medical staff and domestic help, are displayed together. The repetition of photographic conventions and the adjacency of medical dispensary staff and the Anglo-Indian community suggest a leveling of hierarchies and an intimacy of the gaze. Beyond the initial gallery of his family, friends, and domestic help, Tresidder moves on to sections dedicated to more expansive subjects, such as “Cawnpore” and “Agra,” in which he features sites of the Uprising aftermath, portraits of mutineers, pictures of family excursions and of the architecture of the city, suggesting a wider (and more diffuse) geography of self. Tresidder’s subject matter broadens to accommodate a range of visions of life in Anglo India.
Placed after the initial gallery of Tresidder’s personal sphere, on folio 49 (figure 3), are some of the earliest photographs of Indian agents made famous for their anti-British roles in the Uprising: Gungoo Mehter, Jwala Prasad, and Mummoo Khan. These men had been convicted of leading or aiding in the execution of well-publicized assaults on British military and civilian populations in Kanpur and Lucknow and all were major figures in contemporary and near-contemporary British and Indian histories of the Uprising. These photographs were taken in Tresidder’s studio following the conventions used in his other photographs, those of family and peers. The full labels accompanying the photographs (placed directly beneath) beneath the corresponding images, read:
— Tried at Cawnpore for hacking to death with swords the Futtehgarh Fugitives taken by the Nana
— Also for Hacking the women and Children at the Slaughter house Cawnpore on 15 July 1857 and for throwing the living wounded with the dying and the dead together into the Well
— Also for cutting off the arms, noses and ears, of 9 of Havelock’s spies. Seven of whom died in consequence
— The two living mutilated men were part of the evidence against him
— Convicted and Hanged at Cawnpore. 8 September 59.
— the Nana’s Commander in Chief at Cawnpore. He was in Wheelers entrenchment the night before the garrison went to the boats as a Hostage — and he commanded the musket guns at Coila ghat + ordered the massacre June 27, 1957
— He was hanged at the Ghat on the spot where he commanded 3 May 1959
Mummoo Khan Paramour of the Queen of Oude
— (He sent Ladies to the Queen for execution)
— Transported for life for being accessory to murder and a leader of Rebellion in 1857.
Jwala Prasad, a commander or risaldar of Nana Sahib’s rebel army and known as a right-hand man to the Sahib, was purportedly the catalyst of the Kanpur British civilian massacre. Mummoo Khan was believed to have aided the rebellion of the Begum of Awadh; Gungoo Mehter was charged with the crime of slaughtering British at the famed Satti Chaura Ghat, a massacre that took place in Kanpur, on the banks of the Ganges River.
Though incorporated into a broader visual economy of portraiture in the album, within which the use of similar distances and positioning as portraits of friends and family suggest level performances, these photographs are attached to far richer captioning. Tresidder corrals the malleable meanings of the photographs into a narration of bloody insurgency; though numbers of portraits of Indians populate the album, captions are most often limited to descriptors indicating profession, leaving the ascription of personal names and details to the few convicted of anti-British activity.
The practice of incorporating photographs of notorious criminals into family albums may be seen within a larger Victorian album practice. Compilers of photographic albums in England were known to include pictures of notorious celebrities. As the album allowed for imaginative affiliations, such as connecting the compiler to famous politicians or war heroes, it provided room for the alternative penchant to create galleries of ignominy, perhaps enabling colorful narrative foils for the true heroes of the personal album, the self and family. However, in the Western European and American context, this penchant was facilitated by the mass production of cartes de visite of celebrity murderers generally removed from the personal spheres of the compilers, belonging to the Victorian-era popular taste for macabre entertainment. Tresidder’s deployment of the criminal photographs suggests, perhaps, a personal articulation of this practice.
Another folio featuring mutineers (figure 4) provides clues to the narrative Tresidder is constructing through juxtaposition. At the bottom of folio 48, entitled “Cawnpore,” Tresidder affixed two montages of his community from Kanpur, the larger montage captioned “Cawnpore friends.” Above the collages, he pasted three photographs, of “Nana Narain Rao — Mahratta, son of Ram Chunder Punt Commander in Chief of the late Peshwa’s army,” at the top left, next to “Moulvie Sulamut Ali — The Mahomedan High Priest of Cawnpore — aged 104 years — He issued the Mahomedan decree that it was right and proper for Musslemans to Kill Christians as heretics — June/57,” and “Anna Sahib — Son of Nana Narain Rao.” Nana Narain Rao was believed to have served as a double agent in the Mutiny, offering his services to the British following a brief stint as the more famous Nana Sahib’s retainer. John William Kaye briefly recounted Nana Narain Rao’s activities in the Uprising following his master’s defeat:
The local influence of the Nana was gone. The last home of the Peshwas was ruin. The only important member of his household who remained was the Nana Narain Rao, son of the Subahdar Ramchandr Pant. This man had been well known to the English at Kanhpur [sic], and had been by many of our people, with only a hazy knowledge of native individuality, mistaken for the other and greater Nana.
Recalling the Illustrated London News’ quest for a likeness of the Nana Sahib (see note vii), Kaye nods to the importance of individuation in the creation of an Uprising history and the relationship of culpability to the process of criminal identification, sharpening “hazy knowledge.” Emphasizing the rhetorical importance of individuation, Tresidder set his named, described adversaries above a mass of European faces fondly described as friends. The imagined community in this ovoid montage is constituted by mass and repetition rather than familiarity and individuality, and each face reduced to a fraction of the size of the portraits above (figure 4). In Tresidder’s memorial topography of Cawnpore, the multiplied anonymity of his community, set beneath anti-British agents, fosters a sense of indefinable personal loss (underscored by Mr. and Mrs. Tresidder’s appearance at the base of the montage).
The same photomontage is used again on the opposing folio 47 (figure 5), captioned “Cawnpore,” and on folio 98 is a montage, using many of the same miniature portraits, captioned “Agra Friends” (figure 6). According to John Falconer’s research, the montage holds portraits of notables from the North-Western Provinces, among them Dr. John Murray and his family, Felice Beato, and Lieutenant-Governor of the North-Western Provinces, John Russell Colvin.
In these montages, one sees repetition, interchangeability of form and organization, and relative sameness of size that calls to mind the technique of stenciling in miniature painting. Perspectival illusionism is discarded in favor of a more imaginative rendering, one that redirects the focus of the photograph, ostensibly on its subjects, to itself, as a material component of the family album. Experimentation with the shapes and configurations of photographs can be seen repeatedly in mid-nineteenth-century photographic albums (a phenomenon Elizabeth Siegel whimsically referred to as “playing with pictures”), but in Tresidder’s collection, the montage is used sparingly, and only in reference to his imagined community and extended domestic sphere (see below). The referents themselves recede into the background, secondary to Tresidder’s reimagining of them, in stark contrast to the individuality afforded “celebrity” rebels both photographically and textually.
The reuse of images suggests a differentiated rhetorical value placed on the portrait photograph, and perhaps a desired valuation of Tresidder’s type of loss over the personal identities of the sitters. Tresidder’s visual opposition of the mutineers on folio 48 (figure 4) with a more celebrated roster of the dead members of the British community and its Indian supporters on folio 47 (figure 5), “Buldeo Sahai — A loyal Native of Cawnpore,” “Baker Ali Khan — A Celebrated Native Physician Cawnpore,” “J. Sandy Esquire — a Celebrated lawyer of Cawnpore,” suggests a narrative of irrecoverable peace, or at least inchoate efforts to separate on the folios loyal from disloyal populations. Such an effort is epitomized by the later The People of India (1868–75), a photographic ethnography intended to differentiate and document potentially intransigent populations and prevent another mutiny. But in Tresidder’s album the separation is achieved through spatial organization — the collection of photographs of mutineers on the same folios — and the addition of descriptive text.
Tresidder shifts representational values to highlight differentiated aspects of his expansive geography of self (which incorporates Anglo-Indian and native populations), omitting or including names in captions, and selecting portrait sizes and conventions to accommodate changing narrative imperatives. Bringing to mind (Peirce’s theory likely postdated Tresidder’s album) Charles Sanders Peirce’s semiotic theorizations of “type” and “token,” which differentiate between abstract categories of things and their concrete examples, Tresidder alternately emphasizes the abstract representational capacity of certain photographs and the specificity of others, capitalizing on the flexibility of the photographic index. Through the miniaturization and repetition of form in the montages, both of which preclude close analysis, the unnamed players in his imaginative community assume a limitless value as “types” of loss, moored to neither name nor historical event.
Placed directly beneath the portrait photographs of Uprising adversaries, on folio 48, the miniaturized community aggrandized the agency, identity, and present-ness of the mutineers. The weight of the loss is compounded by repetition in folio 48 (see figure 4); directly above the photomontage is its smaller version, with the same sets of portraits in the center, situated within the setting of adversaries. Labeled simply “Cawnpore,” the image’s caption pays homage to an irrecoverable city.
In Tresidder’s album, these photographs seem to be deployed as testimony to the photographer’s encounters with characters of notoriety. Placed beside montages and imaginatively shaped photographs, the folios on which the mutineers are pasted become unique, private, and non-reproducible, shifting the values of the patently reproducible medium on which they are shown. Accompanied by more text than the other pictures, those of the criminal characters relate histories that ostensibly offer more stable fields of meaning.
Doubly authenticating Tresidder’s history, Gungoo Mehter’s seated portrait appears twice, placed side by side at the top of folio 49 (see figure 3) The differing angles of Mehter’s face tell us that two separate negatives were used and that souvenirs of two photographic moments were kept. Perhaps simply maintaining the two photographs, Tresidder’s side-by-side placement of Mehter’s portraits — an adjacency not found elsewhere in the album — suggests emphasis.
The selection of named portraits of Indians seems to tell a specific story. In Tresidder’s album, the names seem to be deployed as a form of pillory, recalling the modern news media practice of reprinting and broadcasting police-station mugshots of notorious criminals, as assignments for and declarations of blame. Just as with the notorious criminals whose pictures grace journals and newsprint, their identities and purported misdeeds were already well known in Kanpur, Tresidder’s city of residence.
By noting their convictions and the terms of their sentences in their accompanying captions and then placing them next to one another, Tresidder seems to fix them as a sort of plot point in his narrative. Their photographs puncture the placid stream of family and landscape images and effect a deeply personal rendering of trauma for Tresidder to revisit and present to others. Altering the terms of photo-making, Tresidder reconfigured the studio, at least momentarily, as linked to the carceral system, and vice versa.
Revisiting these images perhaps provided solace, as reaffirmation of ideas and perceptions of the war. Particularly in the vehicle of the family album, a site of perpetual revisiting, the impact of these images is moderated and made familiar. To quote Zahid Chaudhary:
The repetition of visits to Mutiny sites and the reproduction of their images provide opportunities to return to one’s sedimented habits of judgment and to reinforce the attachment to familiar affects and to the familiarity of one’s own self.
The photographs and captions pertaining to Mutiny sites seem to support Chaudhary’s assertion: In the private space of the personal album, they provide a safe space to contemplate familiar, recorded judgments.
Likely intended for perusal with children or friends, they functioned perhaps as pivots around which particular, fixed narrations of personal tragedy and mutiny were spun and cemented through repetition. The inclusion of captions, beyond acknowledging the frailty of human memory, certainly speaks to the intention to direct the reading of the photographs. Their physical proximity to the pictures in Tresidder’s album suggests their function as extensions of the photograph, forming an indivisible unit of meaning. As mutually supportive registers of information, the picture and caption corroborate each other.
As a result of the added caption, the photo of the Uprising insurgent Gungoo Mehter takes on an oracular aspect — a site on which the viewer looks for signs of the death indicated in the caption. The convicts’ captions function as pictorial frames which crop and delimit context, positioning the men for a specific reading. Gungoo Mehter is simultaneously delineated as a miscreant, a convict, and an executed man. The sequence of the information in the caption provides an imaginary temporality within which the three states coexist — a space within which Tresidder may contemplate the violence and fantasize a restoration of order. The anteriority of the man who existed and who was executed and the posteriority of the order that is rhetorically restored are established by the accompanying caption and the act of picturing the condemned Mehter in the studio.
Photographic albums from the mid-nineteenth century were rarely captioned. Anna Dahlgren discusses possibilities of reading the captionless album in her study of mid-nineteenth-century family albums, and posits that the text-less independence of the photographs suggests continuity with the tradition of portrait painting. Just as with that genre, these early photographs may have been intended as essential representations of their subjects, which were not to be moored to and confined by dated descriptive captions. Analyzed in this light, the profusion of (gruesome) information in the captions accompanying Tresidder’s photographs of the mutineers may suggest a symbolic exclusion of the images from the portrait tradition to which Tresidder’s family portraits belonged, relegating them to a different space framed by textual reportage.
Turning the pages of his family album, Tresidder looked on men already feeling the burden of his gaze, having initially been subject to his photography session. Thus, he doubled the experience of observing and being in the presence of the convicted men. The talismanic quality of the photograph is invoked; the dead men are revived with each viewing, and their averted eyes meet with Tresidder’s implied presence. With each viewing, an imposition of discipline and a reestablishment of order could be performed and the frisson of encountering a rebel-convict re-experienced, and, for Tresidder, the Kanpur bloodshed again and again avenged with just imprisonment. Particularly as the album’s infamous characters are confined to the section dedicated to the Uprising, categorized and filed they become contained remnants of the explosive confusion of the recent violence, subdued by metal restraints as well as Tresidder’s implicit watchful gaze.
In contrast, in the case of the majority of Indian subjects pictured (many of whom belonged to Tresidder’s domestic staff or medical dispensary), the photographs are placed alongside images of members of his family. For example, on folio 5, entitled “JNT’s family,” a photomontage of Indian subjects captioned “JNT’s Establishment of hand servants” sits beneath a photograph of his daughter (figure 7). Tresidder’s servants — the subjects of a majority of his Indian studies — were, as members of his household, readily available for portrait-sitting. As head of the household, Tresidder had the authority to ask or make them pose for his pictures, which may have been necessary, as photographic portraiture during this period often required extended sittings due to lengthy exposure times.
Reverend Joseph Mullens, an outspoken advocate of photography in India, acknowledges and bemoans the excessive attention paid to servants as studies in 1850s Anglo-Indian photography, when he writes that “we have all practiced upon our servants, and taken advantage of an auspicious moment to focus the bullock cart employed in conveying goods from next door.” Mullens, in fact, appealed to his readership for a more rigorous, systematic documentation of “perfect specimens” of “Oriental nations and Oriental manners,” one in which field research played a greater role. Mullens’s exhortation reveals the connectedness between the projects of documentary survey photography and domestic photography.
The taxonomies of Tresidder’s album, conversely, reveal one officer’s photographic survey of the diverse environment of the Anglo-Indian home, which is prefigured by the depiction of servants in an illustrated survey of Indian types by the Flemish artist Balthazar Solvyns, entitled Les Hindous (1808–12). In the portrait painting that serves as a frontispiece, Solvyns is pictured in the company of his Sarkar, Jamadar, and Hookahbardar, all of whom are the subjects of individual “type” portrait studies in a section of the survey called “Servants in the European Household.” Though remaining nameless extensions of Solvyns’ and Tresidder’s lives in India, their proximity to the album creators renders them fit material for a survey of Indian types (as well as aides-mémoires of time spent in India), and suggests fluid boundaries between portrait and typological renderings.
Mullens exhorted his readers to locate proper subjects for photographic study who were to be found, in his opinion, only in the extra-domestic space. The few figures Tresidder located beyond his domestic sphere, and who received detailed captioning, are those whose actions to him constituted trespass. Therefore, the heightened significance and individualized recognition Tresidder affords to the shackled men suggests their transgression or violation of the hierarchies enshrined in the Anglo-Indian family album. Within the ideological framework of this family album, Jwala Prasad and Gungoo Mehter emblematize the disruption of family — of the “family” of colony as well as the more immediate family. Their appearance in this album underscores the interconnectedness of the economies of home and empire and the implications of this interconnectedness in the recognition and construction of the extrafamilial.
The metaphorical construction of a larger family of Anglo-India in this personal album is evident from Tresidder’s inclusion of photographs of his peers stationed in Lucknow and Kanpur, many placed in the section labeled “Personal,” beside images of his immediate family. The metaphor is brought to the fore by Tresidder’s emphasis on Mehter’s murder of women and children — a veritable violation of British home and empire.
The seeming inviolability of civil order and of the hierarchy of the British-Indian family in pre-Mutiny India and the consternation, fear, and alarm mustered by the realization of its fragility are powerfully and disturbingly expressed in Tresidder’s inclusion of two portraits of Mehter as he awaits execution. The consternation is again evoked with Tresidder’s inclusion of the following print that was dedicated primarily to the picturing of his family, friends, and vacations. In the photograph by Felice Beato of Sikandar Bagh (figure 8) that directly follows the small gallery of insurgents, we see Tresidder’s extraction of a mass-produced print from the local market that is fitted into his domesticated narrative. Featuring the scattered bones of rebels, the print fixes violent retribution as a plot point.
Locally available and circulating photographs augment his collection in unexpected ways, suggesting a self-conscious crafting of narrative. In an allegorical construction of the post-Uprising time, Tresidder placed images of the fallen Cawnpore Church, destroyed in the recent violence, next to photographs of its reconstruction (figures 9 and 10). He wrote beneath the first of the series, “Christ’s Church Cawnpore — taken on 3 March/57 — (before the mutiny) copied from a paper negative — found in the Cawnpore Bazaar after the mutiny,” noting his active search for souvenir evidence of the destruction and his conscious effort to reconstruct the edifice within the pages of his album. Paralleling Tresidder’s inclusion of the commercially produced photograph of Sikandar Bagh, which exists as a perpetual representation of disruption and restitution of order, the disruption and restitution of the church confirm each other in perpetuity.
The relative interchangeability of the private and nonprivate underwrites the formation of narratives and permits the formation of histories both personally and culturally meaningful. Tresidder selected Beato’s work for inclusion in his gallery of violence, perhaps as a pedagogical device in his narrative, advertising the outcomes of anti-imperial insurrection in this section on Kanpur. The consequence imagined in this personal album suggests itself as a form of traumatic response and of justice as an imagined, violent restoration of previous social relationships. Within his personal imagining of law and order, execution, which follows scenes of mutineer imprisonment, seems to be invested with the righteous authority of lawful punishment. Contextualized in terms of contemporary English and Anglo-Indian law, within which capital punishment was increasingly viewed as a Draconian measure, Tresidder’s fantasy of restitution generates an emotional thrust and force of violence.
By the mid-nineteenth century, courts of law in London had turned toward biographical readings of criminality, and defendants’ pleas of mental and emotional incapacity severely problematized moral justifications for capital punishment.  In India, the implementation of capital punishment undermined the civilizing premise of colonial expansion, resulting in contentious debates on the propriety of such measures as General Havelock’s trial-less executions of insurgents. Tresidder, no doubt, encountered criticism of Havelock’s actions, and he perhaps used the album as a private space to honor, or at least contemplate, the executions.
The presence of the rebel — indexes of the physical presence of the criminal insurgents — arguably marks more than Tresidder’s private rogues’ gallery. His album is replete with sites testifying to insurgent presence. Ranging from a print of “Wheeler’s entrenchment,” the site of the commander of the Cawnpore Garrison, Hugh Wheeler’s ill-fated defense against Nana Sahib, to “Well Near the Slaughter House, Cawnpore,” photographs of sites ruined by the violence of the Uprising testified,to the former presences of the insurgents, as well as their victims. Through their pictorial conventions and captioning, photographs of sites associated with the Uprising performed, among other things, as surrogate markers of the criminal insurgent body. Moreover, the emptiness of these sites recalls the fact that Indians were banned from entering some of them — including the Kanpur memorial.
The next section looks briefly at pictures of Uprising sites in Tresidder’s album, and the epistemological contiguity of photographs of Indian insurgents and photographs of places of insurgency.
Sites and Bodies
Word of anti-Company uprisings reached England by July 1857, and by January 1858, photographers were dispatched by such major publications as the London Times. Felice Beato (whose photographs feature in the Tresidder Album) and James Robertson, two of the earliest war photographers, arrived in India in February 1858, embarking on a celebrated campaign of photographing Uprising sites, among them areas in Lucknow, Kanpur, and Delhi. Landscape and monument photographs by the former constituted the entirety of the London Photographic Society’s first exhibition on India, in 1858.
In a more official capacity, Dr. John Murray, at the request of the Indian government, photographed mutiny-affected sites and the noted photographer Oscar Mallitte accompanied Lord Canning in 1859, photographing his tour of Uprising sites. Similarly, the husband-and-wife team of Harriet and Robert Tytler and, slightly later, JCA Dannenburg (1859) made photographic tours of many of the same sites. Photographs related to the Uprising, the vast majority of which focused on architecture, were sold commercially soon after the introduction of imperial rule, in 1858.
Constituting a genre in their own right by the 1870s, such photographs engendered a transformation of sites associated with the Uprising into a topography of imperial cultural memory. In a sense, photographs of mutiny-affected buildings provided histories that the camera could not have captured early; the exposure time required, the weightiness of the apparatus, and the danger posed by the processing chemicals prevented its use during the period of war. Therefore, when it was over, the buildings in their state of ruin provided evidence of rebellion. Moreover, in the conventions used to picture the ruins — the inclusion of gratuitous empty spaces, angles askew — photographers of mutiny sites arguably emphasized absence, including that of the bodies of the rebels.
The contiguity of bodies and sites as signs of the criminal insurgency is perhaps most powerfully demonstrated by Beato’s Sikandar Bagh photograph (figure 8), which effects a representation of the aftermath of the notorious stand-off at Sikandar Bagh (16 November 1857). Set at an angle, at eye level at a distance from the shelled monument, the photograph draws the viewer’s eye along an expanse dotted with skeletal remains. At the monument itself, the remains are no longer in view; instead, locals sit or stand beside the massive porch columns. The columns draw one’s eye along the façade of the hollowed-out building, to its apex, the raking cornice. The walled garden had been used as a base of activity by the sepoy rebels, many of whom were subsequently slaughtered by the British corps of the Ninety-third Highlanders and the Fourth Punjab infantry to avenge the earlier Kanpur massacre.
Beato exhumed and scattered remains five months after the stand-off, crafting a representation of the slaughter of anonymous Indian insurgents. Through a process of staging and the transformation of human remains into props that could be scattered beside the pockmarked shell of the walled compound of Sikandar Bagh, Beato foregrounded the performance of remains, both architectural and human, as testament to a pivotal moment of Indian intransigence. The moral content of the photograph is compounded by the presence of the docile laborers, permitted life, in a field strewn with the remains of the rebels.
The constraints of war prevented other photographers from documenting the Uprising as it took place, but by January 1858, the rising fortunes of the British army spurred the Indian government to commission photographic documentation of war sites. In a letter dated 21 January 1858, John Murray was requested by the Calcutta presidency to photograph such cities as Kanpur, Allahabad, Agra, and Delhi, and smaller sites: the “Delhi palace buildings, palace walls, city walls, and principal gates.” Murray set off on his tour, later producing a set of negatives that were then to be reproduced and “completed” by the Industrial Arts Society.
With the war over and the freedom to visit newly accessible sites of battle, armed with a script of sites and assisted by the governmental conscription of processing services, Murray launched a survey “that appears to present a conspectus of the campaign reflected in its material remains.” As the Tytlers and Beato were soon to do, Murray transformed discrete pictures of Uprising sites into a unified collection - a landscape onto which Uprising histories were inscribed.
Furthermore, as mass produced photographic prints of landscapes associated with the Uprising became widely available for public consumption, they could be placed within the emerging milieu of landscape and architectural photographs conscripted as national imperial iconographies.
Typical in this respect is a pair of prints from Tresidder’s album (figure 11), placed within a section dedicated to pictures of the Uprising’s aftermath. It summons allegorical time to narrate a sacralization of space. The upper photograph is taken from a distance and the scorched earth rises to the middle ground. The fence guards the well from the viewer’s gaze, and the viewer is situated at a remove. In the bottom photograph, restitution is realized and the memorial rises tall against the sky. Functioning as a lieu de mémoire, the top print symbolically reconfigures cracks and crevices and emptiness as a protected, hallowed present. It is the distance — the emptiness of the foreground — that functions as the subject. Such a provision of space offsets the subject of the photograph, the well. The viewer is invited to imagine the event through the deployment of off-centered perspectives that privilege large empty spaces over the monument the image ostensibly represents. Combined with the caption “The Well Near the Slaughterhouse Cawnpore,” the photograph calls on the viewer to envision the act and horror of the slaughter. In the absence of images of the criminal body, the yawning emptiness of the foreground and the ruin of the well function as both allegorical spaces of insurgency — recursive in multiple viewings — and indexes of the violence that occurred, represented through the picturing of the scorched earth.
In this article I examined the relationship of an early Anglo-Indian photographic album to the photographs it houses and the historical environment within which the album and its photographs were produced and arranged. Focusing on the public-private space of a personal album and its picturing of family, friends, professional associates, and individuals and sites associated with the upheavals of 1857–58, I make a claim for the significance of a particular kind of history of the Uprising.
Tresidder’s album brings the recent upheaval into a personal constellation, marked by textual editorials and creative presentations. Crossing the domestic threshold, he brought key insurgents into his studio and purchased commercially produced prints of sites marked by war, reflecting a rhetorical conscription of photographs of sites and bodies (live and executed) into the service of a family history. Capitalizing on the photographs’ indexical signification and their more poetic expressivity — their capacity to picture their subject as well as to conjure the past, enabling psychic resurrections of a mutineer on death row or of sites of devastation — the featured photographs telescopically represent national tragedy through an intimately defined field of vision.
It is precisely the closed nature of the album that offers it as a valuable new point of entry into the Uprising. Mediated by narratives that could not be spoken in public arenas, Tresidder’s album contours the interwoven trajectories of the photograph as an instrument of personal/cultural memory and the representation of insurgency in the contemporary imagination.
Rashmi Viswanathan writes on art and photography in South Asia, focusing on early practices in ethnographic and criminological representation. She holds a Ph.D. in Art History from the NYU Institute of Fine Arts (2015).
This paper owes a great debt to Finbarr Barry Flood, who critiqued its numerous iterations and whose advice guided its formation. I would also like to thank Rebecca Brown and Dipti Khera, whose thoughtful critiques have sharpened my analysis; and Rahaab Allana, Jennifer Chowdhry, and Akshaya Tankha, of the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, who gave me unlimited access to the collections and of their knowledge and time. All images are courtesy of the Alkazi Collection of Photography.
Though the British Library spells his name “Tressider,” the album’s captions read “Tresidder.” Sean Willcock confirms the second spelling, having consulted with a descendant of Tresidder, Robert Haskins, who is also a family historian. Aesthetics of Imperial Crisis: Image Making and Intervention in British India, c. 1857–1919. Dissertation, University of York, 2013, 130.
Among the range of histories written directly following the advent of imperial rule are Charles Ball, The History of the Indian Mutiny: Giving a Detailed Account of the Sepoy Insurrection in India (London: London Printing and Publishing Company, 1858); Mowbray Thomson, Story of Cawnpore (London: R. Bentley, 1859); George Dodd, The History of the Indian Revolt and the Expeditions to Persia, China, and Japan 1856–1858 (London: W & R Chambers, 1859); and Colin Campbell Clyde, Narrative of the Indian Revolt (London: George Vickers, 1858).
For diverse contemporary British responses to the Uprising, see Salahuddin Malik, 1857 War of Independence or Clash of Civilizations? British Public Reactions (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2008).
Paradoxically, a print representation of a figure wholly unrelated to the events of the Uprising reveals the signal importance attached to pictorializing events. Early 1857, on learning of the violence stirring in the North-Western provinces in India, the Illustrated London News scrambled to locate a picture of Nana Sahib, who was touted as a leader in the anti-British struggles. Unable to find a drawing or illustration of this vilified figure, the London News used a lavish drawing of one Ajudia Prashad, in the possession of company barrister-at-law John Lang, claiming in its accompanying caption that the picture was made from a sketch taken in India by a major in the BEIC army. The barrister’s protestations to this spurious use are comically described in William Forbes-Mitchell, Reminiscences of the Great Mutiny: 1857–9 (London: Macmillan and Co., 1895), 158–59, by a fellow officer:
Mr. Lang protested, pointing out that the picture no more resembled the Nana of Bithoor than it did Her Gracious Majesty the Queen of England. . . . The artist declared he did not care for people in India; he required the picture for the people of England. So he carried it off to the engraver, and in the next issue of The Illustrated London News the picture of Ajoodia Pershad [sic], the commissariat contractor, appeared as that of the Nana Sahib . . . the arch assassin of the Indian Mutiny.
A range of biting satire, from castigations of the first viceroy of India, to Lord Canning’s clemency toward Indians suspected of rebellion, to the perceived impotence of the British bureaucracy in India can be seen in the London-based Punch, one of the most popular political journals to capitalize on the power of the illustration to rally anti-Uprising sentiment. The print illustration ridiculing “Clemency Canning” can be found in Punch 33 (October 24, 1857), 171; the depiction of the “horrors” of red tape in administering justice can be found in Punch 33 (November 7, 1857), 191.
The first exhibition of photographs of India was produced in London just after the suppression of the Uprising and under the auspices of the Photographic Society of London. Anon., The Journal and Transactions of the Photographic Society of Great Britain 5:79 (February 22, 1859), 185.
The details surrounding Beato’s arrival in India are unclear. It is known that he reached Calcutta in February 1858 and by early March began his photographic documentation of Kanpur. Contemporary documents suggest that Beato moved on to Lucknow by April and remained in India for two years. John Fraser, “Beato’s Photograph of the Interior of the Sikander bagh at Lucknow,” in the Journal of the Society of Army Historical Research 64:237 (1981), 51–55; and David Harris, “Topography and Memory: Felice Beato’s Photographs of India, 1858–1859,” in India Through the Lens: Photography 1840–1911, edited by Vidya Dehejia (Munich: Prestel, 2000), 119.
The commercial value of pictures of the mutiny was quickly recognized; in 1857 Joseph Hogarth, of London’s Art Journal, produced a show featuring thirty landscapes by John Murray entitled, “Photographs of Indian Cities,” in order to promote sales of the publication. Photographs taken before the war were cleverly marketed by Hogarth as necessary views of a pre-Uprising India. Art Journal 19 (December 1857), 386. Cited in Roger Taylor, “Under an Indian Sky,” in Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840–1860 (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of New York), 120.
India, previous to the mutiny, seems to have been limited to a vague notion of exotic shores and products for the broader British populace. Though such texts as Thomas and William Daniell’s Oriental Scenery (1795–1808) were received warmly, such lavish publications were prohibitively expensive for the public. The Illustrated London News, of November 28, 1857, furnishes a vivid example of the instrumentalization of the print image to construct concrete visions of India to rally popular sentiment for crown intervention. A special illustrated “India Supplement” was added, rife with images to call on the British people “to awake from this delusive dream . . . of vague notions of a great Mogul, turbaned Nabobs . . . Cashmere shawls. . . . The nation’s honour and the nation’s interests are henceforth involved in the affairs of the Company of Merchants trading to India.” Newsprint media rallied support for the British imperial occupation of India, and proper knowledge of India, its politics, resources, and people, was cast as incumbent on the good British citizen.
The Incunabula of British Photographic Literature, a bibliography of the earliest private and published albums and books of photography, notes the existence of the photographic album as early as 1840. Helmut Gernsheim, The Incunabula of British Photographic Literature (London: Scolar Press, in association with Derby Lonsdale College of Higher Education, 1984), 15.
Catering to the collection of cartes de visite, album folios were often divided into frames within which cards could be inserted. Alternatively, one could paste prints onto the surface of a page folio, thus customizing the arrangement of pictures on each.
The celebrated Frith’s India Series (c. 1850–79), marketed by the entrepreneur Francis Frith and displaying the photographs of his contemporaries, featured photographs of Indian landscapes and exotica from the 1850s, but was printed and compiled in the 1870s.
As John Falconer has noted, pictures of sites associated with the mutiny were a regular feature in English private albums well into the twentieth century. Having perused a number of these albums from the 1910s to the 1940s in the British Library, I can attest to the conventionality of the placement of Indian-mutiny pictures in English family albums. In Falconer’s words, “Indeed, for the remainder of the century, the principal sites of the mutiny — the Residency at Lucknow, the well at Cawnpore, and other scenes representative either of the triumph of British arms and fortitude or the deepest Indian perfidy — achieved an iconic status: stock items in the portfolio of virtually every commercial photographer which find their place in the albums of almost every visitor to the subcontinent well into the twentieth century.” John Falconer, “Pioneers of Indian Photography,” Monday, January 1, 2007, http://www.ranadasgupta.com/notes.asp?note_id=73. For examples, see “Money Collection: Album of Views of Lucknow” (British Library Photo 499) and Grace Sieberling, Amateurs, Photography, and the Mid-Victorian Imagination (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 104.
The “family album” as a modern genre became popular after 1888, when George Eastman invented the Kodak #1 camera. The snapshot technology relieved the photographer of the responsibility of processing film, which required considerable expertise, expense, and labor, by offering processing services. This innovation made photographic technology much more accessible, and the album became a regular feature in a far broader cross-section of homes in the late nineteenth century.
In a critical essay on the novel ubiquity of the family album in middle- and upper-class homes, one writer observed, “An elegantly bound album, containing some thirty-forty so-called likenesses, has become one of the indispensible ornaments of every lady’s table,” in “The New Picture Galleries,” Photographic News [The London Review] (December 20, 1861), 606.
Nineteenth-century satirists of the carte de visite frequently commented on how the album could be used by a canny hostess to manipulate the perception of her social circle — it was not merely a record, but also an opportunity for strategic social display. The unnamed author of an article on cartes de visite in All the Year Round (probably Charles Dickens, the editor), observed: “Then, the portrait done, you have the opportunity of distributing yourself among your friends and letting them see you in your favorite attitude. . . . And then you get into those wonderful books which everybody possesses, and strangers see you, there in good society . . . you could not in so many words call attention to your card-basket as you can to the album. “The Carte de Visite,” in All the Year Round 192:26 (April 1862), 6, reproduced in Photographic News 192 (May 8, 1862), 225.
The editor of the periodical The Photographic News, George W. Simpson, commented on the immense popularity of the album in the homes of the middle class: “Albums for the reception of these pictures were provided, and these once obtained must be filled, first with family and friends, and then with popular favorites, and the photographic album containing the domestic portrait gallery, soon became a necessary adjunct of every drawing-room table.” Simpson, “Photography: Its History and Applications,” in British Quarterly Review 44:88 (October 1866), 372.
On a related note, for a study of the function of the stereoscope in the Victorian home, see Harold Jenkins, Two Points of View: The History of the Parlor Stereoscope (Uniontown, PA: E. G. Warman Publishing, 1973).
In what is essentially a critique of the fashion of the photographic album, the commentator did find one redeeming quality, the album’s photograph’s performance as a conversation guide: “There is one practical use of a selection of cartes de visite which ought to be attended to — it helps visitors wonderfully as a key to the tastes and prejudices of the house. Especially in the embarrassing half-hour before dinner it is as well to be possessed of the party adopted by the amphitryon. Here a photograph of the Bishop of Oxford . . . may act as beacon to the incautious sailor in the narrow seas of small talk.” Anon., “Carte de Visite Portraits,” in Photographic News [Saturday Review] (July 19, 1861), 342.
Leonore Davidoff, on the function of the Victorian home and its antechambers as a place for enactments of social inclusion and exclusion, wrote of the significance of domestic introductions in staging a family’s social standing in the mid-nineteenth century, within which the photographic album was implicated. Davidoff, The Best Circles: Women and Society in Victorian England (Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1973), 41, note 6. As a fascinating aside, Victorian album photo collages, or photographs cut and pasted into often imaginatively drawn settings and collected within albums, occasionally referenced the public-private nature of the drawing room in their fantastical compositions. Cut-out portraits of family, society, or even members of the royal family were often placed in hand-drawn drawing rooms, socializing with one another in this antechamber. Siegel, Galleries of Friendship and Fame, 24.
Steven Edwards suggests that the activities surrounding the creation of an album were gendered, which Renate Dohmen and Patrizia Di Bello and, drawing from them, Sean Willcock have also argued. Whereas men usually produced the photography, women were usually responsible for the collection and organization of the album and for the rites surrounding its display in the English home. This may be true in Europe, but it is difficult to assign responsibility for album organization and display in the colonies. I follow Fraser’s attribution on the basis of the presence and ubiquity of Tresidder’s handwriting; from the captions to the page numbering, he seems to have played an instrumental role in the creation of the album. Steven Edwards, The Making of English Photography: Allegories (University Park: Pennsylvania State University, 2006), 316; Sean Willcock, The Aesthetics of Imperial Crisis: Image Making and Intervention in British India, c. 1857–1919 (PhD dissertation, University of York, December 2013), 136; Fraser’s view is cited by Christopher Pinney, The Coming of Photography in India (London: British Library, 2008), 112. For in-depth studies of the role of women in British photographic-album compilation, see the works of Patrizia di Bello, such as “Fashionable Femininity: Representations of Photography in Nineteenth-Century Magazines and Victorian Society Albums,” in Phototextualities: Intersections of Photography and Narrative (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2003), 254–71; and Renate Dohmen, “Memsahibs and the ‘Sunny East’: Representations of British India by Millicent Douglas Pilkington and Beryl White,” in Victorian Literature and Culture 40 (2012), 153–77.
Rahaab Allana and Akshaya Tankha, of the Alkazi Collection, and Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, a scholar of Uprising-era Indian history, have generously provided much of the information I offer here regarding the details of this amateur photographer’s life, career, and album production.
“The man on the spot” is British slang for the colonial trope of the rugged pioneering officer, capable of making consequential decisions “on the spot,” unencumbered by colonial bureaucratic procedure.
Tresidder’s backdrop, which is repeated in a number of images in his album, is most likely a photographic representation of the Taj Mahal, viewed from the banks of the Yamuna. This celebrated view was frequently painted in the nineteenth century.
James Ryan analyzes the intersection of photography and nascent British masculine valorizations of adventurousness in Picturing Empire: Photography and the Visualization of the British Empire (London: Reaktion Books, 1997), 45–72. See also Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), 137.
For more information on Jwala Prasad and the activities attributed to him over the course of the Uprising, see Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, The Great Uprising in India, 1857–1858: Untold Stories, Indian and British (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2007), 28. For information on Mummoo Khan and Gungoo Mehter, see Rudrangshu Mukherjee, Awadh in Revolt, 1857–1858: A Study of Popular Resistance (London: Anthem, 2002), 133–35; and Akshaya Tankha, “Photographs of the Aftermath 1857,” in India International Centre Quarterly 34:1 (Summer 2007), 8–24.
Sandra Phillips, Police Pictures: The Photograph as Evidence (1997). Though published after the years of this study, Susanna Meredith’s A Book about Criminals reflects on the history of criminal representation beginning with the advent of photographic technology. Her fascinating commentary on the rights of the law-abiding public over the representation and physical aspect of the convict bear note: “Criminals are public property. The moment one is added to the number already ascertained he is liable to be exhibited in various ways. His likeness may become a carte de visite at police stations, a photograph in the album (misnomer?) of the Discharged Prisoner’s Aid Society, and a ‘wax work figure’ . . . at Madame Tussaud’s. There is a great importance attached to his appearance.” A Book About Criminals (London: Ballantyne Press, 1881), 3.
Taken from Falconer’s research on the album for Christie’s Auction House, 30 April 1997, in South Kensington, London. John Falconer [auction catalog] [London]: Christies Auction House. Electronic reproduction. [Formerly http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/LotDetailsPrintable.aspx?intObjectID=758820], Sale 7650 Photographs, 30 April 1997.
This reading of the Victorian photomontage is borrowed from Batchen’s observations on the playful nature of this art form, which he argues draws as much attention to the montage’s frames and forms as it does the subjects it represents. Geoffrey Batchen, Forget Me Not Photography and Remembrance (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004), 50.
This interpretation of captions is derived from Ways of Seeing, in which the author discusses the transformative properties of descriptive text. John Berger, Ways of Seeing (New York: Penguin Books, 1991), 27–28.
Furthermore, following the restitution of British rule, the Government of the North-West Provinces conducted inquiries into the extent of the raping said to have been carried out by mutineers. See “Memorandum on the Treatment of European Females,” Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1902. Certainly, the reference to the murder and rape of women and children speaks to a much more important rhetorical strategy than the analogy of family and empire, that of the metaphorizing of the British mother/wife, the traditional British middle-class custodian of home, for innocence, purity, and sanctity. Thus, the violation of the English mother constitutes a veritable violation of British home and middle-class values. Issues of masculinity and sexual interaction are deeply implicated in justifications of colonial conquest from the time of Edmund Burke. Deborah Paxton provides an interesting study of the deployment of the metaphor of rape in colonial constructions of chivalry, masculinity, and “Britishness,” in Nancy L. Paxton, “Mobilizing Chivalry: Rape in British Novels about the Indian Uprising of 1857,” in Victorian Studies 36:1 (Fall 1992), 5–30. See also Alison Blunt, “Embodying War: British Women and Domestic Defilement in the Indian ‘Mutiny,’ 1857–8,” in Journal of Historical Geography 26:3 (2000), 412–14.
Contemporary British society increasingly treated capital punishment as a draconian measure, and rehabilitation rather than execution was championed by public figures such as the noted statesman and Member of Parliament William Ewart. Ewart, as well as an array of well-known statesmen, among them Stephen Lushington and Lord Edward Henry Smith Stanley, served as commissioners for The Royal Commission on Capital Punishment, 1864–66, created under Queen Victoria to examine the efficacy of capital punishment. In India, the question of capital punishment was even more problematic, as it undermined the civilizing premise of colonial expansion. For information on contemporary debates on capital punishment, see Brian Block and John Hostettler, Hanging in the Balance: A History of the Abolition of Capital Punishment in Britain (Sherfield Gables, Sherfield-on-Loddon, Hampshire, UK: Waterside Press, 1997), 47–65.
For information on the implications of emerging theories of insanity on court sentencing, see Martin Weiner, Reconstructing the Criminal: Culture, Law, and Policy in England, 1830–1914 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 83–91.
Dannenberg’s “Mutiny Memoirs” comprises seventy-four albumen and gelatin silver prints that focus exclusively on mutiny-affected sites in Kanpur and Lucknow. Published in 1892, this commercially sold album is beyond the scope of this article.
By the early 1880s, one sees the emergence of a genre of photographic albums now referred to as “Mutiny tours,” in which images of reconstructed and still-devastated sites of Uprising action were placed in a specific order, mimicking or replacing the physical act of touring. For a study of the phenomenon of mutiny tours, see Manu Goswami, “‘Englishness’ on the Imperial Circuit,” in Journal of Historical Sociology 9:1 (March 1996), 54–84.
Sir George Campbell, the judicial commissioner at Lucknow, who accompanied him, noted Beato’s process of exhumation, which involved the uncovering and scattering of bodies that had already been set aside for disposal. Quoted in Ray Desmond, Victorian India in Focus: A Selection of Early Photographs from the Collection in the India Office Library and Records (London: H.M.S.O., 1982), 64.
Letter to Dr. Murray, dated 21 January 1858 (NAI). This contains detailed information on what he was to photograph, such as “Delhi palace buildings, palace walls, city walls, and principal gates.” Delhi, which in the nineteenth century had belonged to the Mughals in name only, became a site of fierce contestation during the Uprising, for which reason its Mughal imperial architectural rubble was especially symbolic. During the Uprising, the rebels who had taken on Bahadur Shah Zafar as their leader almost immediately targeted British insignias in Delhi. Mukherjee (2001), 71.
Letter from the Secretary of the Industrial Arts Society (H. Scott Smith) to the Undersecretary of the Governor of India (4 December 1858). Students of the society were asked to work on correcting the fixing and toning of the photographs, which were perceived as incomplete. They were also directed to “paint out the skies.” It is unclear which twenty-five negatives from the Uprising tour this letter refers to.
Jens Jager and Charles Davis have written on the significance of landscape photography to the formation of national histories in the middle of the nineteenth century; physical geographies and monuments were viewed as symptomatic of racial-cultural dispositions, and the reproducible medium of the landscape and architectural photograph permitted “racial” diagnostics to be widely disseminated and read. Jager has convincingly argued that government sponsorship, such as that of John Murray’s photographic tour of Uprising sites, coincided with the formation of national iconographies. Jager, “Picturing Nations: Landscape Photography and National Identity in Britain and Germany in the Mid-19th Century,” in Joan M. Schwartz and James R. Ryan, eds., Picturing Place: Photography and the Geographical Imagination (London, New York: I. B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2003), 117–40.
This section owes a great debt to Chaudhary’s interpretation of empty spaces in Uprising photography: they, in his words, “solicit our faith by inviting infinite scrutiny of the selfsame hallowed space. The spot itself, in all its plenitude, is there for us to see. The photographs invite us to imagine the horrors that took place on that very spot.” Chaudhary (2012), 40. Wu Hung’s reading of absence in war photography as an index of a former presence inflects my reading of photographs of Uprising-era devastation. Wu Hung, A Story in Ruins: Presence and Absence in Chinese Art and Visual Culture (London: Reaktion Books, 2012), 121.