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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Henry Dixon

Dates:  1824, 29 March - 1883, 16 March
Born:  Italy, Naples
Died:  England, London
 
  

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John Falconer, British Library 
A Biographical Dictionary of 19th Century Photographers in South and South-East Asia

 
Amateur, India
Born at Naples, the eldest child of Lieutenant William Dixon, Royal Artillery, and his wife Cecilia Pierina Gironci. The couple were en route from Corfu to Sussex to present Rev. Joseph Dixon, Rector of Sullington, with his first gretchild. Dixon’s childhood was spent in the Ionian Islands, where his two sisters were born.
 
Lieutenant-Colonel in 22nd Madras Native Infantry. Son of Captain William Dixon, Royal Artillery and grandson of Rev. Joseph R. Dixon of Sullington, Sussex
Madras Army 1842-72. Attended Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and sailed for India on the General Kyd on 25 May 1842. Married Catherine Eliza, daughter of Dr George Nicholas Cheek of Bankura, 29 Nov 1849.
 
At the Bengal Photographic Society of 19 January 1859, ‘The Secretary exhibited an interesting collection of views by Capt. Dixon of Cuttack. Capt. Dixon has been most fortunate in the selection of his subjects. The many views of fine temples and caves exhibited by him might tempt many Calcutta photographers to pay a visit to Cuttack.’ [1]
 
(Dixon’s photographs of Cuttack were denied the patronage of the home government: see IOR/L/PandJ/3/1037, p. 254. Not yet transcribed.)
 
At the Bengal Photographic Society meeting of 24 March 1859, Dixon showed ‘A remarkably fine series of views, size 12 x 15, of temples and caves in Orissa. This interesting and valuable collection was much admired. The negatives had been taken on collodion, with a Rosse’s lens. It was mentioned that Capt. Dixon intends to publish the collection.’[2]
 
Series of 14 views of temple architecture of Bhubaneshwar were shown at the Madras Exhibition of 1859, on which the committee commented: ‘This is undoubtedly an interesting series; but it is regretted that several of the pictures show a want of sharpness in focusing, while others are more or less deficient in half tones. This is, however, a valuable contribution and gives, on the whole, a good idea of the subject it represents. Perhaps, Captain Dixon’s best picture is a view of the large Temple with groups of natives in the foreground. This is a very characteristic and good picture, being well focussed and showing greater care in the manipulation, the halftone, at the same time, being better preserved than the others of this collection.’ [3]
 
At the London Exhibition of 1862 over 20 of his views of the temples of Bhubaneshwar and the rock cut temples at Khandagiri were shown.
 
In 1865 he produced a portfolio of views of Mysore shashanas which had been commissioned by the Mysore Government. In 1868 he published two works of architectural photographs entitled Seringapatam Illustrated and The temples of Conjeveram. 295 glass plate negatives of various sizes from 2x5 to 10x8 inches of South Indian inscriptions on copper and stone purchased by India Office.
 
Exhibited at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1867.
Views at Kolar, Balagamve, Bangalore, Begur, Chitradurga, Conjeevarum, Vellore, Taramangalam, Tadpatri, etc. The views taken at Conjeevarum (modern Kanchipuram), are referred to in a letter from Dixon to the Chief Secretary to Government, Madras, dated Bangalore 21 January 1868: ‘With reference to the late order of the Governor General of India, regarding photographs of works of art, etc., and., I beg to bring to notice of Government that, during the last week, I went to Conjeveram and took ten photographs (five 15 in. by 12, and five 12 by 10) of the two celebrated temples, and adjacent tanks and buildings. I believe these temples have never been photographed on glass before, and as the subjects are very fine I trust I may meet with the patronage of Government under the orders alluded to in the commencement of this note. The cost of the set of ten photographs will be 30 Rupees.’[4] The government ordered three sets of the photographs in question, requiring Dixon to forward them to the Superintendent of the School of Industrial Arts at Madras (Dr Alexander Hunter). On 3 December 1868, Dixon again wrote in to Government from Bangalore regarding his photographic activities: ‘I am at present engaged in taking a series of views of all the principal temples in Mysore, and as the type of the generality of them vary in themselves, and also from those in Southern India, your Government might favor me with its patronage for a few copies of each. Up to this time I have twenty-four views (not including any [sites] taken by Captain Lyon), and of two sizes, from plates 15x12 and 12x10, the prices of them being, respectively, Rupees 3-4-0 and Rupees 2-4-0 each, or, if taken by the dozen, Rupees 36 and 24, unmounted: mounting is from 4 to 6 Rupees a dozen according to the cost of card-board...Besides the twenty-four views before mentioned, which are all of temples, I have views of Tippoo Sultan's tomb, the Deria Dowlut and mosque at Seringapatam, and many others of interest; and I enclose a prospectus of work on Seringapatam which the late Governor of Madras allowed me to dedicate to him; but at the time I published it, the order about photographs was not out, so that, perhaps, it is not too late, even now, to bring it to the notice of Government. P.S. Dr Hunter can tell you all about my work on Seringapatam, which was in the Paris Exhibition [of 1867].’[5] The Kanchipuram series was issued as an album with letterpress titlepage reading: The Temples of Conjeveram illustrated in a series of ten photographs ([Madras?], 1868).
 
5 September, No. 1602. ‘Letter from the Commissioner for the Government of His Highness the Maharajah of Mysore, No. 1990-19, dated 21st August 1865 - forwarding a letter from Major H. Dixon, who has been recently engaged in photographing ancient inscriptions in Mysore, and stating that, as the photographs are interesting, and in many instances giving fac-similes of grants of considerable antiquity, His Excellency in Council may perhaps be disposed to patronize the work by taking a few copies.’ Mr Bowring to be informed that the Government of Bombay would take five copies.[6] 
  
 
  

Footnotes 
  
  1. Λ The Englishman, 22 January 1859. 
      
  2. Λ The Englishman, 31 March 1859. 
      
  3. Λ Madras Journal of Literature and Science, no. 9, new series, Apr/Sep 1859, p.?. 
      
  4. Λ Madras public proceedings, 8 February 1868, IOR/P/439/6 p. 129. 
      
  5. Λ Madras public proceedings, 8-9 December 1868, IOR/P/439/7 pp. 2270-71. 
      
  6. Λ Bombay Public Proceedings, September 1865, IOR/P/352/39 No. 876. 
      
 
  

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