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HomeContents > People > Photographers > J. Boesinger


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

Commercial, India
Engineer, Public Works Department, in early 1860s
In 1861, he volunteered to take ethnographical photographs required by Government. James Fraser, Collector of South Canara, in a letter to the Chief Secretary of Government at Fort St George, dated 11 September 1861, describes his work:
With reference to Extract Proceedings of Government of 24th July 1861, No. 1,070, and the copy of the letter which accompanied it, regarding photographic likenesses of remarkable tribes in India, I have the honor to state that at Mangalore there is but one person who practises photography, viz., Mr Boesinger, Sub Engineer in the Department Public Works of this district.
2. I communicated with him on the subject of the above letter, and he has expressed his willingness to photograph members of those tribes or castes peculiar to the Canaras, in his intervals of leisure, and at a moderate rate. He is possessed of a very good apparatus. I send a few specimens of his work prepared under great disadvantages, viz., the damp and cloudy weather of our monsoon, and with bad collodion as it happened.
3. I forward also a copy of a letter to my address from Mr Boesinger, in which he states the terms on which he is ready to supply photographs. I think his own suggestion that he should supply the negative plates from which positives could be printed off by a professional man in England, is a good one, as, judging by the specimens I forward, he is not very successful in printing.
4. I also enclose a list of the tribes of South Canara prepared by the Reverend Mr Kaundinya, a native of the district, formerly a Saraswat Brahmin, but now a member of the Basil Evangelical Mission here. I have marked in red ink those tribes who have distinct characteristics, whether of feature or dress, as so far as I know, and of members of which I would recommend photographic likenesses being taken. Government however may prefer having likenesses of all, particularly as the cost will be small. According to Mr Boesinger’s estimate he could have the whole series ready for transmission to England in time for the Exhibition of 1862 by overland route, if he be authorized to begin his labors at once.
Copy of letter from Boesinger to Fraser, dated 9 September 1861:
I send you herewith a few pictures chiefly of Natives, and am prepared to take photographs of the different classes of people in this District. I enclose a Canarese list of the tribes, some at least peculiar to this country, but I will do any of them if a list is furnished.
The weather was too bad to print and the pictures sent are more or less all refuse prints, and need not therefore be returned. As regards the price, 20 copies being required of each figure, I would make them at one Rupee each copy the larger size, and 12 Annas each copy of the smaller size.
As for the time in which I would finish them, it might take two and a half to three months, as I have little spare time in the working season, and the tribes in the jungles are at some distances and are also not always to be found.
A better plan would be, if Government would take the negatives and have them printed by professional men, as Amateurs do not always get good prints from even good negatives - in that case one copy proving the quality of the negative would be sufficient, and the negatives would easily be forwarded safely.[1]
By 1870, Boesinger was advertising as a professional photographer:
1870 Photographer, Newmarket Road, Bangalore
1871-79 Ootacamund
1880-84 Boesinger and Son, Ootacamund
1885 Boesinger and Kitter, Ootacamund
1886-(90) Boesinger and Son, Ootacamund
1887-(90) Coonoor branch
1887- Pharmacist, Ootacamund
1890-98 Pharmacist and photographer, Ootacamund
1899-1900 Coonoor
1901-02 Ootacamund
1903- Pharmacist only
[All references need re-checking]. 

  1. Λ Madras Public Proceedings, 30 September 1861, IOR/P/249/76 pp. 865-866. 

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