A PHOTOGRAPHIC ACCOUNT OF RUPERT WILMOT’S TRAVELS TO LADAKH IN THE 1930s
23rd July - 10th September 2015
Curated by Nicky Harman and Roger Bates
About the Exhibition
The photographs displayed in the exhibition are selected from the work of Claude Rupert Trench Wilmot (1897-1962), a career officer in the British Army, who served in India for fifteen years between the first and second World Wars. Wilmot was an accomplished amateur photographer and took a keen interest in the landscapes, people and culture that he witnessed on his travels around the country. He also wrote a number of articles for Indian and British journals on the subjects portrayed in these images.
In 1931 and 1934, Wilmot made two journeys into Ladakh. The first was from Srinagar to Leh along the traditional west-east trade route between Kashmir and Ladakh, and the second on the south-north route from the Kullu valley to Leh. Since at that time there were no roads able to take wheeled traffic into Ladakh, Wilmot made both journeys on foot, using pack horses and local guides.
On each occasion, he took numerous photographs, of which some 300 survive as contact prints. These were discovered after his demise, by his niece (Nicky Harman) and his nephew (Roger Bates), who copied and restored them using modern digital techniques.
Although his work was virtually unknown outside his family, Wilmot's style of photography stands out from that of many of his contemporaries. As the examples in the exhibition show, it is intensely personal, presenting the people he encountered in a natural and generally un-posed manner. The images record a way of life that has all but disappeared from Ladakh - as motor roads and air travel have replaced the historic trade routes. They are notable for the variety of people he captures on camera: traders from Yarkand, nomads from Changthang, Balti schoolboys from Kargil, townswomen and farmers in and around Leh, and Buddhist monks and novices. He depicts the monasteries of Lamayuru and Hemis, including the Hemis festival. He also shows the vast landscape, crossing the passes covered with snow, wading through the river, stone and wood bridges.
Rupert Wilmot’s images are now published in a book ‘The Lost World of Ladakh - Early Photographic Journeys in Indian Himalaya’, 2015, Stawa Publications.
About the Artist