Overview for Beato's Delhi 1857, 1997
Felice A. Beato features in most nineteenth century histories of photography as one of its pioneers, partly because of his adventurous subject-matter. He was at Crimea in 1856 and in India in January 1858 to record the last embers of the â€˜Mutinyâ€™ of 1857. In 1860 he proceeded to China where he recorded more British military exploits and, after spending some years in Japan, moved to Burma, where he died around 1908. By the time Beato reached Delhi the British had subdued the city, so he could not record the military campaign itself. He was, however, the first to photograph the battleground and other places of note in that campaign. His pictures contributed to some of the myth-making about the 'Mutiny' and, as Jim Masselos observes, became a 'record of memory and icons for memorial'. This apart, Beato's pictures provide us some unique views of Old Delhi before substantial parts of it were demolished in the aftermath of 1857, or radically redeveloped as the years progressed. In 1997 Jim Masselos retraced Beato's footsteps in Delhi and photographed the same sites as far as possible. Much had naturally changed in the intervening 139 years, and his photographs record the changes directly and implicitly. In the present volume, Beato's pictures are reproduced in shades of brown and sepia, as they were originally printed. Those by Masselos are in black-and-white. The rare photographs in this volume are supplemented by an illuminating text by Jim Masselos and Narayani Gupta, which sheds light on Beato, Delhi's history, and specifically the events of 1857 in this historic city.
Jim Masselos (Author)
Jim Masselos is Honorary Reader in History at the University of Sydney.
Narayani Gupta (Author)
Narayani Gupta teaches History at Jamia Millia Islamia and is the author of Delhi Between Two Empires 1803-1931: Society, Government and Urban Growth (1981).