Bourne & Shepherd Studios

Bourne & Shepherd Studios,

Simla, Calcutta & Bombay  1863 - 1947

   Bourne & Shepherd studios was initially founded in 1863, in Simla, by Samuel Bourne, a keen and extremely competent amateur photographer, newly arrived from England, and William Howard, already an established professional Calcutta studio photographer. It started trading under the name  Howard & Bourne;  but by 1864, they were joined in partnership by Charles Shepherd, already a well established photographer in India, and formerly half of the Agra studio partnership of Shepherd & Robertson.

The new firm of Howard, Bourne and Shepherd was listed in Thacker's Trade Directory for the years 1865-68. After this time, Howard no longer appears in the partnership, and the firm becomes Bourne & Shepherd, under which name, it has remained in business ever since.

     The company’s first studio from 1863, was at ‘Talbot House’ on the Mall, (opposite where the Cecil Hotel now stands), but by 1865 they were also operating in Calcutta as well. The Calcutta branch was opened initially at number 8 Chowringhee, in 1865, but later moved up the street to number 11. This eventually became the company’s headquarters, after ‘Talbot House’ was finally closed in 1910. A Bombay studio, at 10 Rampart Row, was also opened, by 1875 at the latest, but appears to have closed down again by the turn of the century. Other casual travelling Bourne & Shepherd studios were opened seasonally, at various towns around India, as needed, including briefly at Lahore and Delhi.

    By 1870, when Bourne left India and returned to England for good, he was replaced as topographical photographer by Colin Murray. Apart from the topographical material, the firm also produced a wide range of high quality portraiture and social documentary work, including cabinet cards and cartes-de-visite. The studio in Simla was operated primarily by Charles Shepherd, until his departure from India, somewhere around 1879. 

    The company documented the main Delhi Durbars in 1877, 1903 and 1911, producing a range of fine images both of the ceremonies and fine portraiture of the participating Viceroys, visiting British Royalty & Maharajahs. The company became the de-facto official photographers to the British Raj in India; and produced portraits of successive Viceroys and Governors, as well as most high officials and major political events. Everyone who was anyone in British India, had their portrait ‘done’ by Bourne & Shepherd, at some point in their career!

     Over and above his work for Bourne and Shepherd, perhaps Charles Shepherd's best known photographic work were the Woodburytypes and Autotypes used to illustrate Cole's 'The Architecture of Ancient Delhi' (1872). By the time of Shepherd's departure, the firm had established its pre-eminence in the sub-continent and was able to offer the public a series of over 3000 views of architecture (both Indian and European), topography, and portraits of ethnic groups as well as rulers from India, Burma, Nepal, Ceylon, Afghanistan, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Many of their photographs were published in books on India and their prints purchased by generations of residents and tourists, so much so that their surviving work forms perhaps the most detailed visual source for the sub-continent. By the 1920’s; the catalogue for Bourne & Shepherd’ stock views lists over 4,500 images.

    The studio later went through a progression of owners, in varying partnerships, throughout the late 19th & 20th centuries, long after Samuel Bourne had finally severed all connections, sometime in the mid 1870’s. Colin Murray eventually took over management of the studio, until his death about 1884. His relative, Kenneth Murray, took over management and part ownership until his death in 1901. 

    The studio in Simla was closed in 1910, and the entire B&S business was transferred to a newly built studio in Calcutta.  ‘Talbot House’ was taken over, from 1910, until 1922, by another famous Indian photographer: Fred Bremner.  There then followed a progression of new owners of Bourne & Shepherd; including Arthur Musselwhite, who took over in about 1930, and then the partnership of William Walker, Varjiban Jaitha & S.J. Suraiya from about 1955 till 1957, when it was bought by Qimat Rai Jindal.

    In 1964, ownership passed to the  current management of Messrs. K. J. Ajmera and J. B. Gandhi. The company is still in business, at its 1910 Calcutta premises in S. N. Banerji Road, (late Corporation St.); and is now one of the oldest established photographic studios in the world!

Unfortunately; a major fire on Feb. 6th 1991, destroyed the studio attic, containing the company’s entire archive of glass negatives, which included all Bourne and Murray’s surviving plates, as well as the successive 130 years of the company’s output.

    The Photographs offered on this page are images produced by Bourne & Shepherd studio photographers other than Samuel Bourne. The main named photographers represented are : Charles Shepherd (active 1864 to circa 1875) & Colin Murray (active 1870 to circa 1884) .

Important Note: Bourne & Shepherd prints signed ‘Bourne & Shepherd’ in the negative and numbered from circa 2,200 up to circa 2,800 or higher, are invariably by Colin Murray (and not by Samuel Bourne, despite many other authority’s claims to the contrary!)

Unfortunately; very little or none, of the later work produced by the studio after the early 1880’s is, as yet, directly attributable to any specifically named photographer.

Prints by Samuel Bourne are on the page:  Samuel Bourne

The studio of Bourne & Shepherd, at  ‘Talbot House’, The Mall, Simla; in 1868. 

Colin Murray.

Charles Shepherd