Noted for his outstanding series "The Pagoda of Hallibeed, illustrated by fifty-six photographic views, with descriptive letter-press" (London: Published by Thomas M'Lean, 1859)
Of the various photographers of archaeology in India, Oakeley stands out as one of the finest. Near the end of 1856, advised by his friend Andrew Neill, he paid a visit to the ruins at Halebid in southwestern India. Oakeley took a number of waxed-paper negatives, later published as albumen prints in his The Pagoda of Hallibeed, Illustrated by Fifty-six Photographic Views. In spite of a broken apparatus and servants who were ill with rheumatic fever, he did an extraordinary job. His text reveals that he had previously visited “a great number of the most celebrated Pagodas in the South of India,” but that “this was my first attempt at Photographing in a hot climate. I was compelled to reject the formulae I had used in England.” He was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and Sir Henry Rawlinson, praising his photographs, made the library of the Royal Asiatic Society freely available to him. Amazingly, beyond these details and the visual testimony of his photographs, we know almost nothing about Oakeley. He obviously traveled a great deal, missing all the censuses in the nineteenth century. In 1859, when he married Mary Ann Field of Shrewsbury, he was living at Oswaldkirk Hall in Yorkshire. In 1859 and 1862 Oakeley stood as the parliamentary candidate for Shrewsbury, both times unsuccessfully, and was a resident of Oswaldkirk, Yorkshire, in 1862. In 1863 he was one of the directors of the Stafford and Uttoxeter Railway and by 1864 also a director of the Opera Company in London. Oakeley’s largest claim to fame is as the plaintiff in a three-year trial that started in 1859. He was duped out of a 6,500 pound loan by the ambassador for the king of the Indian province of Oudh, who claimed to need the money to build an embassy in England.
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.
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Dewan, Janet, 1989, Oct-Dec, ‘The Hoysalesvara Temple of Halebid in Early Photography‘, History of Photography, pp.343-354 [Δ]
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
Oakeley, Richard Banner, 1859, Oakeley v. Ooddeen... Printed from Mr. Tolcher’s Short-Hand Notes of the Proceedings, (London: Thomas Scott) [Δ]
Oakeley, Richard Banner, 1859, The Pagoda of Hallibeed, illustrated by fifty-six photographic views, with descriptive letter-press, (London: Thomas M'Lean) [Δ]
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