V&A Exhibition Captures Colonial India And Burma — Review

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 38 months ago
V&A Exhibition Captures Colonial India And Burma — Review ★★★☆☆ 3
A pagoda reaches for the sky. As clouds were difficult to photograph with the equipment at the time Tripe re-touched the photo, adding the clouds in. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A pagoda reaches for the sky. As clouds were difficult to photograph with the equipment at the time Tripe re-touched the photo, adding the clouds in. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A colossal statue of Buddha in Burma (Myanmar). Collection of Charles Isaacs & Carol Nigro.
A colossal statue of Buddha in Burma (Myanmar). Collection of Charles Isaacs & Carol Nigro.
An intricate carved doorway highlights Tripe's fascination with local architecture. Courtesy National Gallert of Art, Washington.
An intricate carved doorway highlights Tripe's fascination with local architecture. Courtesy National Gallert of Art, Washington.
These hills were the site of a battle between the French and the English:  viewers back at home would have known the significance of this image. Courtesy Chales Isaac & Carol Nigro.
These hills were the site of a battle between the French and the English: viewers back at home would have known the significance of this image. Courtesy Chales Isaac & Carol Nigro.
Tripe also photographed artefacts that he found in museums, like these in Madras.  Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Tripe also photographed artefacts that he found in museums, like these in Madras. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
These photographs capture architecture from all faiths, including the Islamic design of this mosque. Courtesy V&A.
These photographs capture architecture from all faiths, including the Islamic design of this mosque. Courtesy V&A.

Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆

There's been a smattering of historic photography exhibitions over the last year — including Cairo to Constantinople at the Queen's Gallery and Salt and Silver at Tate Britain — and frankly we haven't been overly impressed. Now a new show at the V&A literally promises to be a load of Tripe — Captain Linnaeus Tripe, to be exact.

Aside from having a fantastic name, Tripe served with the East India Company army before becoming the photographer for the Madras government, thus giving him the opportunity to explore and capture images of India and Burma.

Tripe was fascinated by the local architecture, and here we're shown examples of Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic buildings, plus the odd Western monument erected in the far-flung East. He visited early in the morning to capture sites without any people milling about — a strategy modern photographers still use today, and one which lends an empty eeriness to shots.

There is definitely the sense that Tripe was capturing these views for posterity, and taking pictures he thought would be most appreciated by people back in Britain. An abandoned military fort may look out of place in this series but it was the sight of a battle between the British and the French; such inclusions would have gone down well with patriots.

One spectacular feat that stood out for us is a 19-foot panoramic view of a temple wall that Tripe captured by stitching together 21 photographs. It's not all photographs either; models of some of the temples and pagodas are on show too.

While most of the attention may be on the spectacular Alexander McQueen exhibition next door, visitors shouldn't miss out on this fascinating historical archive of an India and Burma that have since changed radically.

Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1852-1860 is on at V&A until 11 October, entrance is free — this exhibition is part of the V&A's India Festival. While at the V&A also check out the nearby renovated Weston cast court and for more photography from the V&A's archive see the brilliant Beneath the Surface at Somerset House.

Nearby are exhibitions on corals, butterflies at Natural History Museum and experiments in photography at Science Museum. For more major art exhibitions see our top openings for July.

Last Updated 25 June 2015