Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Manirung Pass

Samuel Bourne (British, 1834–1912)
Albumen silver print from glass negative
23.7 x 29.6 cm (9 5/16 x 11 5/8 in.)
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Cynthia Hazen Polsky Gift, 2005
Accession Number:
2005.100.499 (99)
Not on view
After some initial success as a professional photographer in England, Samuel Bourne sailed to India in 1863 and soon after his arrival opened a studio in Simla. From there he embarked on three successive photographic expeditions to the Himalayas, which brought him wide recognition and which he described in the pages of the "British Journal of Photography" in issues dating from 1864 to 1870.
This photograph of the Manirung Pass was made in 1866 on the last and most strenuous of the expeditions, the destination of which was the source of the Ganges. Accompanied by the botanist and geologist G. R. Playfair, Bourne enlisted a team of eighty porters who drove a live food supply of sheep and goats and carried boxes of chemicals, glass plates, and a portable darkroom tent. Crossing the pass at an elevation of 18,600 feet, Bourne succeeded in taking three views before the sky clouded over, setting a record for photography at high altitudes. After near-fatal hardships, the expedition reached the ice cave at the foot of Gangotri Glacier, where the Ganges originates, and returned safely to Simla. It was through such feats of physical courage, as well as the obstinate pursuit of the highest artistic standards, that Bourne earned his reputation as a peerless photographer-explorer.
By the time Bourne left India in 1870 to return to England, he had produced over 2,500 views, mostly of architecture and landscapes, which, distributed by his partner Charles Shepherd, constitute the most exhaustive record made in India by a single photographer. Bourne's carefully thought-out, meticulously crafted images were collected by tourists, archaeologists, and botanists alike. The album of 131 images from which this view is taken includes 68 photographs by Bourne. With a few exceptions all the other images, ranging from cricket games to amateur theatricals and shipwrecks, were made in India. A richly informative document on the subcontinent as viewed through British eyes, the album was probably assembled by a British resident in India in the late 1860s.
Inscription: Inscribed in the negative, BL: "Bourne 1468" and inscribed in pencil on mount recto, BL and BC: "No. 1468" and "The Manirung Pass--Elevation 18,600 feet."
[Frances Edwards, Ltd., Booksellers, London]; Ken Kolker, New York (sold, Sotheby's, Nov. 1, 1988, lot 85); Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York

Hambourg, Maria Morris, Pierre Apraxine, Malcolm Daniel, Virginia Heckert, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. p. 304.

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