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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Lyon Playfair

Dates:  1830, 4 December - 1907, 17 December
Born:  India, Calcutta
 
  

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

 
Amateur, India
Son of Sir Hugh Lyon Playfair (1786-1861), Lieutenant-Colonel, Bengal Artillery, and his wife Jane (née Dalgleish, d. 1872). Baptised, St Stephen’s, Dum Dum, 2 Jan 1831.
Madras Army, 1850; retired 15 Dec 1878.
His application to be attached as photographer to Madras School of Industrial Arts was rejected in 1856.
 
Extract from Public Letters from Fort St George, dated 9 August 1856:
‘...Para 15. We received through the Director of Public Instruction, an application from Dr Hunter, Superintendent of the School of Industrial Arts at Madras, for the services of an officer to be attached to the Institution as Photographer...
Fort St George Public Consultation of 29 January 1856, from A.I. Arbuthnot, Director Public Instruction, to Chief Secretary to Government, letter of 12 January 1856:
I have the honor to submit for the consideration of the Right Honorable the Governor in Council the annexed copy of a letter under date the 9th instant from Dr Hunter, recommending that Lieutenant F.L. Playfair of the Artillery may be attached temporarily to the School of Industrial Arts as a Photographer.
2. Lieutenant Playfair’s skill in the art of photography is highly spoken of, and, as a similar opportunity of obtaining the services of a well qualified photographer may not often occur, I beg to recommend that Lieutenant Playfair be appointed provisionally as Instructor in Photography in the School on such salary as the Right Honorable the Governor in Council may think fit to assign him, pending the order of the Honorable Court on the application made by Government in August last for authority ‘to give a small monthly allowance to any qualified practitioner of the Art, who may be available at Madras to undertake the office of teacher in Dr Hunter’s School.’
3. In the event of this recommendation being approved of I would suggest that it be intimated to Lieutenant Playfair that on the establishment of the projected Engineering College a portion of his time will probably have to be devoted to that Institution.
Enclosed letter from Alexander Hunter, dated Madras 9 January 1856, reads:
I have the honor to request you will do me the favor to apply to Government for the services of lieutenant F.L. Playfair of the Artillery being attached temporarily to the Madras School of Industrial Arts as a photographer. His qualifications have been tested and he is found to be well acquainted with several different branches of the Art. I beg to forward a true copy of an application which has been made to His Excellency the Commander in Chief through Lieutenant Colonel Curzon for the purpose of ascertaining whether Lieutenant Playfair’s services can be made temporarily available for the purpose.
Enclosed letter from Lieutenant Colonel Curzon to the Commander in Chief, dated Madras, 7 January 1856:
I have the honor to rquest you will do me the favor to apply to His Excellency the Commander in Chief for the services of Lieutenant F.L. Playfair of the Artillery being attached temporarily to the Madras School of Industrial Arts as a photographer. He appears to be well acquainted with the different details of the Art and his services might be brought immediately into requisition in doing photographs of the most useful timber trees, fibrous plants and medicinal or useful vegetable products of India. It is of consequence that many of these should be correctly delineated as the resources of India are now attracting great attention.
2. There are other departments in which Lieutenant Playfair’s services might also be of great use as in taking photographs of tools, machinery, agricultural and engineering appliances.
3. The Artistic Department of the School would also be greatly benefitted by having an officer specially set apart for general photographic purposes, so as to afford subjects accurately transferred to wood or copper for illustrating educational and general literature.
4. The Honorable the Court of Directors have already expressed a desire to see photography introduced into educational establishments and have offered to provide apparatus and chamicals for the purpose.
On 29 January 1856, the Governor in Council turned down the application on the grounds that Playfair could not be spared for civil duty.
 
[For Sir Hugh Lyon Playfair and family history, see Hodson, who supplies further references; extracts from Madras Consultations reproduced in Board’s Collections, IOR/F/4/2725/198.064; L/MIL/9/218 f. 285; details of wife/children in biog cards. Also check A.G. Playfair, Notes on the Scottish family of Playfair (1913 edn, BL 9903.bbb.7), The Playfair Book (1932, BL 09917.de.7)] 
  
 
  

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