Did you know that the world’s longest running Photographic Studio was based in Kolkata? Yes, that’s right! Bourne & Shepherd (B&S) recently was in the news as it shut down after being in the business for 176 long years.
Advancement in technology, a devastating fire, and lack of experienced management were some of the reasons cited by its owner for shitting down the business.
The four-storeyed structure of B&S is a landmark in Kolkata. During its heyday, the likes of Rabindranath Tagore, Satyajit Ray, British sahibs and memsahibs would visit the studio to have their portraits taken.
History of the Studio
- William Howard set up the studio in 1840
- Samuel Bourne and Charles Shepherd join him in 1863.
- In 1866, Howard quits and the studio is renamed Bourne & Shepherd (B&S)
- 1911: B&S are appointed the official photographer of Delhi Durbar to commemorate the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary as Emperor and Empress of India
- 1930-64: Studio changes ownership several times, before being taken over by the current owners
- 1991: Devastating fire ravages the studio and destroys its entire library
- 2008: Studio stops printing black and white photographs
Jayant Gandhi, the current owner of the studio, says “Everything was destroyed in the fire and the loss became irreversible. We had the finest collection of photographs, but the treasure vanished in smoke.”
The 1886 portrait of Shri Ramakrishna, taken a few months before his death at the insistence of Swami Vivekananda, is among the most iconic photographs the studio took. It seems the apprentice dropped the glass negative because of which a semi-circular crack developed just above the spiritualist’s head. Luckily for the studio, it only made the picture look better (the halo in the photograph of Sri Ramakrishna is a result of this crack).
Other iconic photographs of B&S hang from the Smithsonian Institution, National Gallery of Portraits in London, the Cambridge University library – and almost every home that worships Rama Krishna Paramhansa.
Address: 141, SN Banerjee Road, Taltala, Kolkata, West Bengal 700013