F.W.Baker’s Indian Photography Circa 1857-69

F.W.Baker’s Indian Photography  Circa 1857-69
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An unusual and rare group of photographs in cartes de visite format, providing an interesting record of trades, occupations, and European service in North India. The images listed below all bear blue or black printed photographer’s details on the reverse: “By Appointment Photographed from life by Mr F W BAKER, CALCUTTA” unless otherwise described. The cards and photographs are generally in very good condition having been preserved in a CDV album, but the album itself is disbound and the album surface paper separating from the card mounts due to historic damp. We have removed the cards from the album in order to separate them from their original mounts which could have a harmful effect on them. Some of the mounts bear a pencilled title beneath the frames. The front free endpaper of the leather bound album, measuring 11.5 x 15cm, has the pencil name of the owner Stuart, 8 C...... Street, Calcutta. The album is included separately for expert preservation and restoration if required. 
The cards according to the titles on the mount are:
1. Baboo ........... Ch...... [In British India, babu or baboo often referred to a native Indian clerk. The word was originally used as a term of respect attached to a proper name, the equivalent of "mister", and "babuji" was used in many parts to mean "sir"]
2. Prince [?] of Mysore [?]
3. Buggy [European, probably Mr Hall, looking out from a two wheeled trap]
4. Bettel Woman [Betel nut seller]
5. Rice Woman
6. Syce [a person who takes care of horses; a groom.]
7. Beestie [A water carrier, as to a household]
8. Khansoma [Khansama A house-steward or native servant, being in charge of the kitchen and the food supplies]
9. ?
10. Baboo [ see 1. above] 
11. ….& Shaver [shaving a bearded European]
12. Brinder [?] Walla [man with performing monkey]
13. Khansoma at Table [serving European, black printed card]
14. Hackey [poss. “ Hackney?” bullock cart]
15. Ayah [a nursemaid or nanny employed by Europeans, black printed card]
16. Native Shaver
17. Dancing Girl [standing by a table, black printed card]
18.[?]  Baboo [Black printed card]
19. Palkee [A covered type of litter for a stretched-out passenger, carried on four poles on the shoulders of four or more bearers- from the same root as “palanquin”]
20. Sweeper
21. Dancing Girl
22. Jewess
23. Lahoree [ a native of Lahore, now Pakistan. A young woman with a water pot on her head]
24. Naga Chief [A member of a conglomeration of various tribes, living in Nagaland ,India ,and surrounding areas and speaking various Tibeto-Burman languages.If this card does indeed show a Naga chief, then we think that it is a good candidate for one of the earliest known photographs of a Naga tribesperson.]
25. Andamanese Women [natives of The Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal.black printed card]
26. Money Changer
27. Tailors
28. Native Gentleman of Bengal [red printed card]
29. Ayah [black printed card]
30. Dancing Girl 
31. Dr Richards [photograph by Schwarzschild, Calcutta],
32. Stuart Hall [owner, compiler of the album? Photograph by Duval & Co, 28 Tank Square, Calcutta],
33. Lieut Duries [also by Duval, black printed card]
34. A card of an Indian in a shawl, possibly a scholar, standing by a carved table, inscribed in ink on the reverse Bassie Misser Casmeere [This card by Schwazschild with a printed medal on the reverse dated 1863]
35. Dancing girl, Musselman [archaic and now regarded as non politically correct , Muslim, inscription on bottom of photograph, girl seated,. This card with impressed mark of Saché & Westfield]
36. Dancing girl, Musselman [see above, inscription on bottom of photograph, girl standing by a pedestal,. This card with impressed mark of Saché & Westfield.
Baker is regarded as important as one of the earliest photographers in India. It seems likely to us that the images of the ordinary working Indian men and women that he photographed are the only records of their lives still extant. Cartes de Visite. [usually thin albumen prints pasted to thicker card as in this case] were only popularised in the mid to late 1850’s.
We have found plenty of information about the career of a Baker online. F.W. Baker [christian names not currently known] was an assistant to J.W. NEWLAND in 1855, but by 1857 he had set up his own studio and was advertising his premises: “BAKER’S DAGUERREAN ROOM 1-2 Wellesley Place, next to Boudet and Co., opposite the north entrance to Govt. House. Mr. F. Baker (late manager of J.W. Newland’s Gallery) respectfully begs to inform the Ladies and Gentlemen of Calcutta and its visitors of his return from the North West Provinces, and of having commenced business at the above address, where specimens may be seen and trusts that his long and well known experience in Calcutta will give him a share of public patronage. Stereoscopic views of the celebrated Tajmahal at Agra, also the Tomb of Akbar and Gateway at Secundra may be seen, taken by Mr Baker during his late tour. Miniatures in the fine morocco cases, from 8-0. Stereoscopic likenesses in Claudet’s patent folding cases, colored 30-0. Horses and carriages taken instantaneously, also portraits of all descriptions copied. Rooms open from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M.” In 1859 he called his business “Baker’s Daguerian and Photographic Gallery”  and he operated from 1-3 Wellesley Place, opposite Government House.His firm continued to trade throughout the 1860s, although Baker left India for an unspecified period in the early 1860s, advertising his return in 1863: “Mr. F.W. Baker begs to notify that he has returned to Calcutta per S.S. Nubia, and will in a few days be prepared to take life size and all other kinds of photographs in a manner superior to any that has hitherto been seen in India. Photographic Gallery, 2, Wellesley Place, 3rd November 1863.”
In 1864 he photographed the Calcutta Cyclone. The business continued until 1869, when it became the Calcutta Photographic Company, in which year the negative stock was purchased by SACHÉ AND WESTFIELD. A company named “Baker and Catliff operated a  studio from various addresses in Calcutta 1867-75, although Baker was probably not in India for much of this period.The following listings appear in Thacker’s Commercial Directory: “1868 F.W. Baker, daguerreotypist, 1-2 Wellesley Place, Calcutta” and in 1869: “F.W. Baker and Co., Photographers, 2 Wellesley Place.”

Citation:  The above information on Baker amended and extracted from; John Falconer, British Library ,”A Biographical Dictionary of 19th Century Photographers in South and South-East Asia”.



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