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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Linnaeus Tripe

Names:
Other: Captain L. Tripe 
Other: Captain Linnaeus Tripe 
Other: L. Tripe 
Dates:  1822 - 1902
Born:  Great Britain, Davenport
Active:  India
 
  
British military officer and photographer. He worked in Burma in 1855, and from 1869-72, and for the Madras Presidency in Southern India from 1856-60, documenting buildings and landscape and publishing his Indian photographs in six large format albums. He also worked in the stereo format. He eventually retired as Honorary Major General in 1875.
 
[With contributions by Pam Roberts]

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Linnaeus Tripe
Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum (London, UK)

 
  
Linnaeus Tripe was born on 14 April 1822, in Devonport (then Plymouth Dock) Devon, the ninth of twelve children. His mother Mary (1786-1842) founded the Devon and Cornwall Female Orphan Asylum in 1832, and his father Cornelius (1785-1860) was a surgeon, also interested in natural history and art. After his sister Emily married a colonel in the 3rd Madras Light Infantry, Linnaeus was able to pursue a career in the army, and joined the East India Company army in 1838, nominated as a cadet for the Madras Infantry. He progressed rapidly, becoming a Lieutenant in 1840 and joining his own regiment at Palaveram in the south of India.
 
In 1850, after 11 years in India, Tripe returned to England on leave for two years, extended due to ill health until 1854. Between 1851 and 1854 he began to experiment with photography, and bought photographic supplies in both London and Devonport. His interest in photography had either developed previously in India, or was sparked by the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. Photographs of statuary in the great exhibitions of London and Paris were discovered in his collections of photographs after his death. Tripe's earliest surviving photographs are of Devonport, England, and date to 1853.
 
Tripe returned to Bangalore, India, as a captain on 19 June 1854. He made his first photographs of India on leave from his regiment in Hullebede and Belloor in Mysore, south India, in December that year. Tripe prepared 68 photographs of previously unphotographed temples from his trip for the 'Madras Exhibition of Raw Products, Arts, and Manufactures of Southern India', which opened in February 1855. The jury stated his work to be the 'best series of photographic views on paper' and it came to the attention of Lord Harris, governor of Madras, and the Honourable Walter Elliot, both members of the Madras Photographic Society.
 
Photographing in Burma
 
In April 1855 Lord Dalhousie, governor general of India, had recommended that a political trip to Amerapoora (Amarapura), Burma, take place following the annexation of Pengu (Bago), part of Burma, by the British after the 1852 Anglo-Burmese war. Colesworthy Grant, a Calcutta artist, was due to accompany the group, but photography was considered a more suitable material for accurate documentation, and Grant was not skilled in photography. The Court of Directors in London drew up an 1855 directive claiming 'photography as a means by which representations may be obtained of scenes and buildings, with the advantages of perfect accuracy, small expenditure of time, and moderate cash'. They asked that photography be the main means of recording architecture. Dalhousie recommended Tripe. Tripe joined the expedition in June 1855. Ambiguously, Grant also accompanied the group and produced sketches of similar areas to those photographed by Tripe. Some of Grant's works were included in the album of 106 landscapes and portraits, titled 'A Series of Views in Burmah taken during Major Phayre's Mission to the Court of Ava in 1855'. They are now in the British Library collection.
 
During his time in Burma, Tripe tried to teach photography to a member of the Burmese court, and worked shoeless in temples - a ruling by the envoy to act in deference to the King of Burma. Back in India, Tripe was asked by the Government of India to print 50 prints of each of the 120 selected images, Burma Views. Tripe found it hard printing in hot and cold weather - heat melted wax on his negatives, and some of his assistants collapsed due to the high temperatures. Many prints were rejects but the project was finished in March 1857 with the publication of Burma Views.
 
Tripe had been under pressure to produce the series quickly, and evidently would have preferred more time and better working conditions. He wrote an accompanying disclaimer for the albums:
'The accompanying Views…in justice to him as a Photographer employed by the Government of India, should not be looked upon as a challenge to Photographic criticism; but as a series of views of subjects interesting on account of their novelty…As excuses too, for these defective photographs he would wish it known, that he was working against time; and frequently with no opportunities of replacing poor proofs by better. Also that, from unfavourable weather, sickness, and the circumstances unavoidably attending such a mission, and actual working time was narrowed to thirty-six days'
Tripe's Burma Views were distributed widely and were very well received. Tripe sent 50 copies to Calcutta. Fourteen sets from these were distributed by the Government of India, including seven sets to members of the Mission to Ava, former capital of Burma. Twenty sets were ordered by the East India Company's Court of Directors, and most were given to members of the Court. It is not known what happened to the remaining sixteen sets. Due to Tripe's ownership of the negatives, he printed a selection of his photographs for further distribution. A set of 92 views of Burma was given to the King of Prussia, and more sets were given to the Madras Photographic Society and associated figures. Two hundred and ninety additional prints were offered for sale at 2 Rupees per print at Griffiths and Co., Madras.
 
Official photographer
 
In July 1856 as a response to the 1855 directive, the Madras Government proposed that Tripe should become official photographer to Madras as soon as his work on the Burmese photographs was finished. He was asked to propose a mandate. Compared to the Bombay Government photographer's mandate of 'taking copies of the sculptures and inscriptions in Western India', Tripe's was broad. He proposed recording, 'before they disappear' buildings, sculptures and inscriptions… including the picturesque'. He wanted the creative space to experiment with his own photography, to carry out an extensive survey, and to train others in photography. He asked to be based in Bangalore where printing conditions were easier. The government agreed a compromise whereby Tripe would be based in Bangalore but would teach at the School of Industrial Arts in Madras for the hottest two months of the year when printing anywhere was difficult. (Nevertheless, the teaching didn't happen as Tripe was opposed to it on many counts, including difficulties of working in the heat, the costs of maintaining his Bangalore setup whilst he was in Madras, as well as the loss of time for his work.)
 
Tripe began work in Madras on 19 March 1857. He started work on glass negatives, taking photographs of objects shown at the Madras exhibition. He then worked on portraits of Madras residents. He sold copies in addition to those required by the government in order to attempt to make his photographic office self-supporting.
 
Meanwhile, British rule in the north was being threatened by the 1857 uprising, which affected Tripe's funding and the security of his project.
 
The southern districts tour and Madras presidency photographs, 1857-58
 
As official photographer to the Madras Government, Tripe set off from Bangalore on 14 December 1857 after delays due to waiting for modifications to his new English camera, and his recovery after falling from a horse. He arrived in Madras on 30 April 1858 having travelled via Srirangam, Tiruchchirappalli, Madurai, then Pudukkottai, Tanjore, and Tiruchchirappalli again. Tripe looked for subjects with architectural or antiquarian interest, and wanted to ensure his images were practical too: before he set out he asked the chief engineer for guidance on what would be most useful from an engineering perspective, and incorporated this input into his work.
 
Tripe stayed in Madras in 1858 to photograph sculptures from the ruined Buddhist stupa at Amaravati, called the 'Elliot marbles' after Walter Elliot, the antiquarian, linguist and member of the Madras Council who recovered them. He then began printing his 480 selected negatives, aiming to provide 70 copies of each series as requested by the government. He was forced to modify this to providing 70 copies of the best images, and 12 of the rest due to time constraints - it was taking him one week to print 250 successful prints, and so the project would have taken over two and a half years. He also sent Elliot a copy of a panorama of the inscription around the bimanum of the Great Pagoda at Tanjore. Elliot was thrilled and noted the 'noble triumph of photography'.
 
The annual exhibition of the Madras Photographic Society opened on 12 May 1859 and Tripe exhibited 50 photographs from his 1857-8 tour. The jury dubbed his photographs 'the best in the Exhibition' but as Tripe could not be classed an amateur, he could not win the gold medal.
 
The decline of official photography
 
Following the 1857 uprising, control of India was taken from the East India Company by the British Crown. Management of the presidencies altered slightly, although the same problems with finances remained. A new governor, Sir Charles Trevelyan, was appointed, and was keen to cut costs. Presented with Tripe's bill for seven months in 1859, Trevelyan said he would pay the bill, but added 'I submit for the consideration of my colleagues whether the Government Photographic Establishment is not an article of high luxury which is unsuited to the present state of our finances'.
 
The government asked Tripe to justify his establishment, and make a list of 'such ancient buildings or inscriptions, as are rapidly falling to decay, and require being recorded photographically at an early date 'ere they pass away altogether.' Tripe apparently interpreted this narrowly, not understanding the threat posed to his undertakings. He listed only sixteen locations as being in need of urgent photography, and unsuccessfully argued that it was vital for him to record less attractive buildings that would be overlooked by commercial or artistic photographers.
 
In mid-June 1959 the government ordered that Tripe undertake no new work, stating that closure of the establishment was not only financially right, but 'conducive to the object of having the monuments of the country pictured and explained in an able and intelligent manner.'. Tripe managed to convince them to fund the production of further copies of seven of his series for sale, recouping some of the outlay spent on the photographic establishment. Walter Elliot still championed Tripe, and suggested that he be allowed to carry on for another year, until 1860. It was not to be, and Tripe was ordered to close the business and sell off the equipment by the end of 1859, luckily keeping his negatives.
 
Tripe's photographs from the Madras photographic establishment were disposed of. They didn't sell well, due to what was perceived as the old fashioned techniques (ie paper rather than glass negatives). Copies of many of the remaining works were given to British and Indian institutions, including the V&A.
 
Tripe went back to the Army in 1863 after recovering in England from exhaustion and having his request to continue as a government photographer declined. Tripe was continually promoted, becoming a colonel in August 1873. Whilst staying at Tonghoo, Lower Burma, in February 1869, Tripe made his two final series of photographs. Tonghoo was the centre of a powerful kingdom in the 15th and 16th centuries, and contained much religious architecture from that period. Tripe, however, focused on landscapes made on glass negatives. He titled some of these 'studies' hinting that he was distancing himself from straight record photography and concentrating on aesthetic concerns.
 
England
 
Tripe left India in 1873, and retired from the army in April 1874. Back in England he spent his retirement with his extended family, and was passionate about collecting shells and corals rather than practising photography, many of these are now in the British Museum, the Natural History Museum in Brussels, and private collections. Tripe died in his home in Devonport on 2 March 1902. 
  
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Victoria & Albert Museum and is included here with permission. 
  
Date last updated: 11 Nov 2011. 
  
SHARED BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION PROJECT 
  
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.
 
  

Approved biography for Linnaeus Tripe
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

 
  
The son of surgeon and blessed with a wonderfully evocative name, Linnaeus Tripe opted for a career in the army of the East India Company. Educated in mathematics and the classics, he was sent to India in 1839. Tripe’s earliest calotypes were taken in 1853 while he was on furlough in England. Returning to India, he photographed temples in 1855. In the 1855 exhibition of the Photographic Society of Madras, although this was early in his photographic career, Tripe’s extensive contribution stood out. He showed sixty-eight photographs, printed from massive 14 x 12 inch waxed-paper negatives. According to the Reports by the Juries of the Madras exhibition, “the majority of these are clear, sharp, and well defined in the details. . . . The half tints and reflected lights are also well brought out. . . . As studies for the artist, the antiquary, or the engraver, these are invaluable.” Tripe was appointed the official photographer for the government of Madras from 1857 to 1860. He traveled hundreds of miles, carting his heavy photographic equipment and exotic supplies, to photograph not only public works but also the region’s ancient temples and palaces and exotic landscapes. Many of Tripe’s photographs were published in grand albums and as stereograph cards. In 1859 Charles Trevelyan (the cousin of Walter Trevelyan), the new governor of Madras, shut down the photographic endeavor in an economy move. In 1860 Tripe sold his cameras and returned to his regiment; he eventually retired to England. No further photography by him is known. 
  
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. 
  
SHARED BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION PROJECT 
  
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.
 
  

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

 
Amateur, India and Burma
Madras Native Infantry. Official photographer with the British Mission to the Court of Ava, 1855; official Presidency Photographer, Madras, 1856-8, photographing sites of archaeological significance. This appointment resulted in several books of original photographs, all published in 1858. These were Photographic views in Madura (48 plates), Photographic views of Poodoocottah (10 plates), Photographic views of Ryakotta and other places in the Salem District (10 plates) , Photographic views of Seringham (9 plates), Photographic views in Tanjore and Trivady (23 plates), Photographic views of Trichinopoly (9 plates), Stereographs of Madura ( plates).
 
A large collection of his views were shown at the 1855 Madras Exhibition:
‘The best series of photographic views on paper is exhibited by Captain Tripe, 12th M.N.I., it consists of 68 large pictures, 21 inches by 14, taken from the Jain temples and ruins at Hullabede and Bellore in Mysore. The majority of these are clear, sharp, and well defined in the details, proving that great care has been taken to obtain the correct chemical focus. The half tints and reflected lights are also well brought out, a few of the views are sombre and heavy, but this has been caused by the dark shadows cast by parts of the massive buildings. As studies for the artist, the antiquary or the engraver these are invaluable; as regards the design of the buildings themselves however, there is a sameness in the style of the ornaments, and so great a repetition of long horizontal lines and of complicated details that the eye is fatiguued with minutiae and seeks for more quiet flat surfaces to set off the exuberance of ornament. We would notice the following as being particularly deserving of attention, No.s 2-6-8 and 12 views of the temple at Bellore and Nos. 22-26 and 34 from the same temple. No. 35. The great bull in the temple of Siva, in this the half tints are beautifully delicate. No. 37. Side view of the Mundapum with the small bull. No. 32 principal entrance to the temple with guardian figures, No. 40 a figure of Ganesa No. 54a picturesque Sule mundapum wit good foreground - No. 57 Agatharswara pagoda with a banian tree growing from the top. Captain Tripe also exhibits some good landscapes of which the best are No. 63, the overturned lingum of Hallabede taken from the platform of the temple. No. 9, distant view of the temple from across the tank No. 655, bridge, and No. 64 large tank near the ruins. These views are very Indian in their character and picturesquely selected. Two careful ground plans of the position and measurements of the temples at Belloreee and Hullabede accompany the photographs. The Jury are of opinion that Captain Tripe is entitled to a first Class Medal, and they recommend that the whole series be purchased for transmission to the Honorable Court of Directors.’[1]
Tripe’s photographic skills evidently became known to the authorities, and perhaps as a result of these views, he was selected to accompany the mission to the Court of Ava as photographer:
Minute by the Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, dated 23 June 1855:
Photography. With advertance to a recent despatch of the Hon’ble Court recommending the use of photography in preserving the recollection of buildings and other objects of interest in this country and with reference to to the opinion I lately expressed that an artist should be sent to Ava with the mission about to proceed to the King; I have to state that Captain Linnaeus Tripe of the 12th N.I., an officer of the Madras Army, is very highly qualified to conduct ths part of the contemplated duties of the artist, regarding which I understand some difficulty has been felt at the Presidency.
I propose, therefore, that Captain Tripe should be attached to the mission, as well as Mr Grant. He should be directed to proceed to Calcutta by the first mail steamer in July, and to report himself to the Offg. Secretary in the Foreign Department who will communicate the orders of the President in Council to him.
Captain Tripe should receive whatever staff salary may have been allotted to the other junior officers of the mission.
[signed] Dalhousie
13th June 1855[2]
From G.F. Edmondstone, Secretary to the Govt. of India with the Governor General, to Secretary to Govt., Military Department, Fort William, dated Ootacamund 14th June 1855:
Under instructions from the Honorable the Governor General, I have the honor to request that the Right Hon’ble the Governor in Council may be moved to place the services of Capt. Linnaeus Tripe of the 12th Regt. Madras Native Infantry temporarily at the disposal of the Supreme Govt. for employment with the mission about to proceed to Ava
2. In anticipation of the sanction of His Lordship in Council, Captn. Tripe has been this day instructed to proceed to Calcutta by the first mail steamer in July next.
[signed] G.F. Edmondstone
Ootacamund
14th June 1855[3]
To Capt. Linnaeus Tripe, from G.F. Edmondstone, 14 June 1855:
The Hon’ble the Court of Directors having recommended the use of photography in preserving the recollection of buildings and other objects of interest in this country, and the Most Noble the Governor General understanding that you are highly qualified to conduct this duty I have the honor to inform you that in anticipation of the sanction of the Govt. of Madras, His Lordship has been pleased to place your services at the disposal of the Hon’ble the President in Council for employment with the Mission about to proceed to Ava. You are therefore requested to proceed to Calcutta by the first mail steamer in July next and report yourself to the Offg. Secretary in the Foreign Department who will communicate to you the orders of His Honor in Council in regard to the nature of your duties.
3. [sic] You will receive whatever staff salary may be allotted by His Honor in Council to the other junior officers of the Mission.
[signed] G.F. Edmondstone
Ootacamund
14th June 1855[3]
At the 30 December 1861 meeting of the Bengal Photographic Society,
‘Professor Oldham lent for exhibition a series of views in the Madras Presidency by Captain Tripe, taken from paper negatives and printed under the superintendence of Dr. Hunter, at the Madras School of Industrial Art. These views were taken in 1858, when the calotype process was still in general use; as calotypes they were excellent, although inferior to what might have been expected in collodion had been used. The printing is good, and reflects much credit on Dr. Hunter’s Institution.’[5]
Letter from Captain Linnaeus Tripe, 13 Salisbury Street, Strand, 10 September 1862, to Herman Merivale, Under secretary of State for India
Sir,
I have the honor respectfully to submit the following for the consideration of H.M. the Secretary of State for India, in Councuil. From June /55 to March /57 I was employed by the Governt of India as a photographer accompanying the Embassy to Ava for the purpose of taking objects of interest during [the] Embassy. The results were a series of 120 views, fifty sets of which I sent to the Govt. of India by the latter month. I was then appointed Photographer to the Govt. of Fort St George. After accomplishing some minor work, and making preparations for a tour, I started on my first tour, on the 14th December /57 thro’ Ryacottah, Seringham, Trichinopoly, Madura, returning by way of Poodoocottah, Tanjore, and Madras to Bangalore, about the end of July/58 - having gone over about 700 miles of ground and carrying on the work well thru’ the hot season.
 
The results were in the following works, some accompanied by letter press.
[Subject] Views 14x12 Copies Total
Ryacottah 10 37 370
Seringham 9 36 324
Trichinopoly 9 36 324
Madura in 4 parts with letterpress 48 71 3408
Poodoocottah 10 36 360
Tanjore with letterpress 23 37 851
A roll contg. a copy of an inscription in obsolete Tamil round the basement of the Bimanum of the Great Pagoda at Tanjore about 400 feet long - copy about 18 ft. 20 71 1420
Total of views 14x12 7057
A series of stereographs of Madura with descriptions in pamphlet form 70 71 4970
A series of stereographs of Trichinopoly, Tanjore, etc. 70 36 2520
Total Stereographs 7490
A series of photographs of the Amravatti Marbles in the Madras Museum 51 71 3621
Total of all sizes 18,168
These were all printed, mounted, arranged, bound up in volumes or made up in rolls, in my own work rooms at Bangalore, having accupied me, unremittingly, from August /58 to March/60, a period of 20 months. From motives of economy the Government ordered the establishment to be broken up and my own health, impaired by such continuous labor and anxiety, when the pressure was over, broke up as well and I came home on S.C. in November /60 (the same year). My motives in troubling Sir C. Wood with these matters is, for the purpose of showing that I have, when formerly employed by the Govt. in India, really used every effort to give satisfaction to them - and to ask, if His Excellency thinks my evidence of such efforts satisfactory, whether now, that I am about [?] D.V. to return to India a similar duty may not be assigned me, only, neither so costly to Government, nor so much beyond my own strength as that I had attempted.
 
Should Sir C. Wood in Council, think my enquiry a fit one, I would respectfully suggest three modes in either of which I would endeavour to make myself useful. One is - to learn all that I can learn, at the Ordnance Survey Office, Southampton, regarding the process, called Photo-zincography, used there under Sir H. James in reducing maps, plans, etc. with a view to its being introduced into the Madras Presidency for the use of such Govt. officers as may require it.
 
Another might be to illustrate the Botany of India with as many of the resources of the art as I can bring to bear upon it, microphotography included.
 
And lastly - to illustrate the archaeology or piblic works of India the Madras Presidency. This proposal, I feel, would have been better made throught the Govt. of Fort St George, my explanation why it was not so made, is, that to make any at all has been only of very recent determination - and to do thefirst of my alternatives, of necessity, the authority for doing it, must be obtained at once - and to carry out either of them, there are things to be obtained, that are best obtained in London and personally. For anything that may seem intrusive or improper in this offer I trust the above will justify me. With this letter I have the honor to send a box contg. a copy of each of the works I have named, except that of the Embassy to Ava, of which I possess no complete copy - and though I send about 70 views they are by no means good copies, I regret to say - regretting too, the length of this letter
 
I have the honor to be, etc.[6]
Minute paper.
Captain Tripe was appointed Govt. Photographer at Madras after his return from Ava, and continued to discharge the duties of that appt. till the office was abolished in 1860. This abolition took place under instructions from the Secretary of State as a measure of economy - and there is no reason to suppose that the Govt. of Madras have any intention of soliciting sanction for the renewal of the appointment.
Letter to Tripe from the India Office, dated 30 September 1862.
Sir,
 
I have laid before the Secretary of State for India in Council your letter, dated 10th inst., and in reply I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of the box, forwarded by you, containing copies of the photographic works executed by you in India and to state that, in the absence of any recommendation from the Govt. of Madras, Sir Charles Wood must decline to sanction any of the arrangements suggested by you forqualifying yourself for re-employment in the work of photography, in its several branches.
 
  
 
  

Footnotes 
  
  1. Λ Madras Exhibition of raw products, arts, and manufactures of Southern India, 1855. Reports by the Juries, Athenaeum Press, Madras, pp. 133-134. 
      
  2. Λ India Secret Consultations, 27 July 1855, IOR/P/Sec/Ind/192, No. 15. 
      
  3. Λ India Secret Consultations, 27 July 1855, IOR/P/Sec/Ind/192, No. 17. 
      
  4. Λ India Secret Consultations, 27 July 1855, IOR/P/Sec/Ind/192, No. 18. 
      
  5. Λ Journal of the Bengal Photographic Society, vol 1, no. 1, 1 May 1862, p. 6. 
      
  6. Λ Public Department. Home Correspondence. IOR/L/PandJ/2/41, item 7/49. 
      
 
  

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Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
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