Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, V&A: Review

Calling all photographers or those who love to travel! You really need to get yourself down to the Victoria  and Albert Museum to see the new exhibition devoted to the work of Captain Linnaeus Tripe, one of the early pioneers for photography between 1852-1860.

The photographs on display all relate to what Tripe would have seen during his time in India and Burma (now known as Myanmar) – and what images they are: architectural sites and monuments, landscapes and ancient religious buildings are just a few examples of what to expect from this extraordinary display.

Elliot Marbles and other sculpture from the central Museum Madras: group 26.

Containing a huge amount of detail, the photographs are hugely focused and even confident in style. The reason behind this was thanks to Tripe’s experience as a Military Surveyor, he had a great understanding of what it meant to present information as accurately as possible.

But for me it is the architectural images that really stand out in the exhibition. For example, Tripe’s Madura: The Great Pagoda, West Gopurum (January-February 1858) – really manages to capture the scale and size of the building and really puts it into perspective with its surroundings. The technique that Tripe used to get all of the temple into the image was extraordinarily forward thinking on his part. In order to correct the problem of unnatural converging, which would have occurred by simply tilting the camera, Tripe used a feature called a ‘rising-front’  that kept the camera horizontal but  raised the lens vertically to capture the summit.

Madura: The Great Pagoda, West Gopurum (1858)

The images of architecture that Tripe focuses on, suggests an element of loneliness and isolation from the rest of the world and suggests peace and serenity that hasn’t yet been destroyed by humans. It is sad to think then that many of buildings in the pictures are no longer standing due to various conflicts and makes you reflect on the way in which the world has changed.

While wondering around the exhibition, you can’t help but wonder what people back in Britain would have made of these photographs of lands that they didn’t know about and probably would never visit. Would they have been excited? Would they have marvelled at the beautiful and extraordinary buildings? I like to think that it was a combination of both.

It is a simple exhibition and the Victoria and Albert Museum made the right choice in letting the photographs do much of the ‘talking’. While there isn’t a large amount of photographs to see (it is in the gallery right next to the Alexander McQueen exhibition), it still leaves an impression on how well the beauty of the world can be captured in a photograph.

Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma opens to the public on the 24th June until 11th October 2015. 

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