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  Linnaeus Tripe, Photographer

Linnaeus Tripe was born in Devon, England (although some sources report his place of birth as Edinburgh, Scotland) on April 14, 1822. He received his education at Devonport Classical School, and in December 1839, the teenager became an infantry cadet with the Madras Establishment of the Army of the East India Company. During a lengthy furlough, Mr. Tripe was introduced to photography, and by 1853 became one of the founding members of the Photographic Society of London. He began producing 12x15" negatives, which were rarities at the time, and was one of the earliest proponents of waxed-paper negatives, because of their ease of development and transport. His lens of choice was the Ross No. 4 landscape lens that had a focal length of 20", and at 4.5 pounds was compact enough to carry long distances.

Mr. Tripe's photographs of an Indian Medical Service expedition, which included land surveys and hundreds of architectural images, captured the attention of James Broun-Ramsay, 1st Marquess of Dalhousie for the Burmese court, and prompted Lord Dalhousie to appoint Mr. Tripe his official "Artist in Photography." Mr. Tripe embarked upon his first photographic expedition for Lord Dalhousie in the summer of 1855, a three-month fact-finding mission during which he would make more than 200 large-format images of Buddhist temples and other buildings of cultural importance. During this expedition, he developed what would become his trademark composition technique of rotating his camera to 180 degrees, which enabled him to manipulate shadows that horizontally divided his pictures and the distance created a spatial illusion that allowed the viewer to contemplate the structure as a whole.

In his capacity as official photographer, Mr. Tripe also documented the Second Burmese War, which ended in 1858, and when he returned to his Bangalore makeshift studio, he printed more than 6,000 prints that were categorized into 50 boxed sets. He also educated public works employees on calotype negative techniques at the Madras School of Industrial Arts. This incessant period of photographic activity resulted in the publication of several books, including Photographic Views in Madura; Photographic Views of Poodoocottah; Photographic Views of Ryakotta and Other Places in the Salem District; Photographic Views of Seringham; Photographic Views in Tanjore and Trivady; Stereographs of Madura; and Stereographs of Trichinopoly. However, by 1860, with the appointment of Sir Charles Trevelyan as Governor of Madras, the costs of Mr. Tripe's photographic expeditions were becoming an issue. Governor Trevelyan condemned such expenses as "high luxury which is unsuited to the present state of our finances." An order to abolish his photographic enterprise was immediately issued, and Mr. Tripe was placed on army sick leave. He returned to England to convalesce for two years, and took his last photos of Burma a decade later. Upon returning home to Devonshire, Mr. Tripe retired from photography and retired from the army in 1875, whereupon he received the honorary rank of major general.

Linnaeus Tripe died at his Devonport estate on March 2, 1902, and several of his Madras photographs presently reside at London's British Library. Other works can be found at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and Los Angeles's J. Paul Getty Museum. Scottish photographer Sarah MacDonald has observed of Linnaeus Tripe, "His photographic record shows not only diligence and determination to carry out his commission well, a technical mastery of his medium, especially the calotype process, but also a great visual awareness and sympathy for his subject, producing some of the finest architectural studies of the period."

2013 Architecture in Photographs by Gordon Baldwin (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Trust), p. 1862.

2012 Available Light by Nicholas Sumner (Leicestershire, UK: Matador), p. 136.

2016 Early Photography in Burma, Part 1: Linnaeus Tripe (URL:

2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 1409-1410.

2007 Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 by Roger Taylor (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art), pp. 127-131.

2013 In the Realm of Gods and Kings edited by Andrew Topsfield (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), pp. 64-65.

1983 Popular Photography, Vol. XC (New York: Ziff-Davis Publishing Company), p. 9.

2014 7 Days in Myanmar by 30 Great Photographers (Singapore: Didier Millet, Csi), p. 21.

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2019-01-06 22:24:23

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