Frith’s India Series
Photographs of India, by a variety of photographers, taken for,
and published by, Francis Frith & Co., between circa 1865 and 1893
Francis Frith & Co. was the largest producer of topographical photographs in 19th century England. It was founded in the 1850’s, by the travel photographer Francis Frith; initially famous for his fine landscape & architectural views of England, as well as his photographs of Egypt, taken during his visit there in 1857. The company marketed a vast range of topographical views, originally starting with those taken by Frith himself, but increasingly added to by a large body of employed or specially commissioned photographers; and eventually produced views from countries all round the world; later expanding to produce postcards and remaining in business up until the 1980’s.
Frith’s Indian Series:
The company commissioned three separate series of Indian views; the majority of the first series, comprising some 300 images, appears to have been made at some time in the late 1860’s, (the Kashmir-Simla-Kulu-Spiti series were certainly made during the season of 1869-70, though some were printed from earlier negatives, bought in from other studios, and the second series of some 300 more, were definitely made in 1874/75*. A third series, of larger format 12x10 inch views, numbered 10001 - 10261, (which were also available as Cabinet prints, 6x4 in.) were made at some later date (the actual photographer for this series, is unidentified, as yet); exactly they were taken when is not clear; they were not included in the 1875 catalogue, but do appear in the 1893 edition.
The names of all the photographers actually employed by Frith in India have not yet been fully established. Some of the earlier images were taken by the Bombay photographer William Johnson, some were done by J. M. Drury and were signed by him; and some of the Calcutta views were also signed in the negative by the well known Calcutta photographer, Oscar Malitte; so presumably they had all either been specially contracted by Frith, or had later sold some of their negatives on to them, as many professional photographers did at that time. The total number of Frith’s Indian views, listed in their catalogues, and including the larger 12x10 in. ones, runs to about 882 images *
* Thacker’s Directory for 1880 (Calcutta), contains an advert for “Frith’s Photo-Pictures of India”, noting that:
“a series has now been completed by the addition of some 200 views taken by an Artist who has passed the season of 1874-75 in India for that special purpose. The entire series now consists of over 500 photos, size 8 inches by 6 1/4.”
The Cover of Frith’s 1875 Catalogue.
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