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HomeContents > People > Photographers > John Cooke Bourne

Other: J.C. Bourne 
Dates:  1814, 1 September - 1896, February
Died:  Great Britain, Brentford
Active:  Russia
Artist, engraver, lithographer and photographer with an interest in railways and construction. He learned his engraving skills from J.W.M. Turner's favorite engraver John Pyle in the 1830s. He was the official photographer for the Czar on the construction of Charles Blacker Vignoles' bridge across the River Dneiper where he documented progress on a weekly basis - first as artwork and later as photographs (late 1848 - October 1853). He travelled with Roger Fenton to Moscow and St. Petersburg in 1852. The rediscovery of his photographs was reported in the journal "History of Photography" (2004).

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for John Cooke Bourne
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

The son of a London hatter, Bourne was emerging by the 1830s as a draftsman of unusual skill. A chance meeting with the author and antiquary John Britton brought about his involvement in a project to document the construction of the London and Birmingham Railway. Published in four volumes in 1839 and extensively illustrated with tinted lithographs made from Bourne’s camera lucida drawings, this work was the first documentation of British railways. By 1847 Bourne was in the employ of the engineer Charles Blacker Vignoles, working in Russia documenting a series of civil works projects. In September 1852 Bourne was joined by Roger Fenton to document Vignoles’s grand suspension bridge over the Dnieper River at Kiev. Bourne had experimented with the daguerreotype and by then was taking calotypes to supplement his drawings; Fenton was invited along to contribute large-format stereo photographs for the Wheatstone stereo viewer. Fenton and Vignoles were instrumental in founding the Photographic Society in London. Elected a member in May 1853, Bourne contributed nineteen calotype and waxed-paper images of Russia to the society’s 1854 exhibition, and he would go on to design and patent a camera with a built-in darkroom for developing wet-collodion negatives in the field. 
Roger Taylor & Larry J. Schaaf Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 4 Nov 2012. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
If you find any errors please email us details so they can be corrected as soon as possible.

HomeContents > Further research

General reading 
Taylor, Roger; with Larry J. Schaaf, 2007, Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840–1860, (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art) [Δ
Readings on, or by, individual photographers 
Bourne, John Cooke, 1856, 21 January, ‘Description of a New Patent Portable Camera, with Separate Dark-Chamber . . .‘, JPS, vol. 2, pp. 283-84 [Δ
Britton, John, 1839, Drawings of the London & Birmingham Railway, (London: Bourne and Ackermann) [Δ
Hannavy, John, 2004, Winter, ‘John Cooke Bourne, Charles Blacker Vignoles and the Dnieper Suspension Bridge‘, History of Photography, vol. 28, pp. 334-347 [Δ
If you feel this list is missing a significant book or article please let me know - Alan -
If you have a portrait of this photographer or know of the whereabouts of one we would be most grateful.
Family history 
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch.
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