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HomeContentsVisual indexesJohn Burke

John Burke 
[Bit of the Jugdulluck] 
20.3 x 31.7 cm 
British Library 
Shelfmark: Photo 430/3(83) 
Curatorial description (Accessed: 27 February 2017)
Photograph of part of the Jagdalak defile in Afghanistan, taken by John Burke in 1879-80. The Jagdalak Pass, situated between Kabul and Jalalabad, cuts through the forbidding Hindu Kush mountain range and was the scene of bitter conflict during the First (1839-42) and Second (1878-80) Afghan Wars. It resonates in British military history particularly because many British soldiers were killed here during the First Afghan War.
The photograph is part of a series of images forming the Afghan War albums which provided a visual document of the country and resulted in Burke achieving renown as the first significant photographer of Afghanistan and its people. The British became involved in Afghanistan, trying to create a buffer state and protect their Indian empire in the face of Russian expansion in Central Asia. The Anglo-Russian territorial rivalry created what came to be known as the Great Game between the powers. In 1878 Burke accompanied British forces into Afghanistan, despite being rejected for the role of official photographer. He financed his trip by advance sales of his photographs 'illustrating the advance from Attock to Jellalabad'. In his two-year expedition in Afghanistan during the Second Afghan War, Burke became the photographer of the region where the strategies of the Great Game were played out. In a latter phase of the war, from October 1879 to the summer of 1880, British troops (the Kabul Field Force) under General Roberts occupied Kabul. Burke stayed here for too for many months, photographing the city and its inhabitants and the surrounding territory. It is obvious from his varied images that he had a close relationship with the British troops and did not hesitate to be part of the frontline of action. 

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