LAMO’S VISUAL ARCHIVE
This is an ongoing project
Since its establishment, LAMO has started putting together a Visual Archive of the region primarily based on digital images that have been received from institutions and private individuals. Much of the early visual imagery of Ladakh began to be produced in the 19th century. With the greater ease of travel into the Himalayas at that time, Ladakh was frequented by government administrators, missionaries, explorers and scholars. These individuals often photographed, painted and filmed the region alongside recording their visits in textual form. Their images form part of an important visual documentation of the history of Ladakh that speaks of its landscape, culture and the people who inhabited it. They also tell us how visitors to the region perceived Ladakh, and what their experiences and impressions were.
Probably the first visual image of Leh was George Trebeck’s drawing made sometime in 1820. The next known image is a watercolour painting by Hermann Schlagintweit, one of the Schlagintweit brothers from Germany who did research in Ladakh in 1856, as well as a watercolour by the British artist William Simpson created in 1865, followed by more sketches of the town by Stanley Leighton in 1869. Some of the earliest photographs, taken in 1873, are attributed to Edward Francis Chapman. Then, in the late 19th century, Moravian Missionaries such as August Hermann Franke began to produce photographs. By the first part of the 20th century photography was much more common and the visual record of Ladakh therefore starts to become much richer in the early 1900s and continues to grow in the 1930s and 1940s onwards.
Alongside the photographs of visitors to the region, by the 1950s, Leh was also home to three photo studios: Syed Ali Shah, Dijoo and Lalit Photo Studio. These three studios were known for their photographic portraits as well as their pictorial coverage of important events and personalities in Ladakh’s history. Together they formed an important local grouping that established photography in the region and has since inspired future generations of young Ladakhi photographers.
The archival images at LAMO include collections of Li Gotami from the Chhatarpati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum), Mumbai; Colonel Reginald Schomberg from the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford; Richard Nicholson, courtesy of his nephew Tim Mitchell); Claude Rupert Trench Wilmot, courtesy of his family members; Otto Honigmann, courtesy of his granddaughter Michaela Appel and the Five Continents Museum, Munich; and Lalit Photo Studio, courtesy of Sanjay Kumar.
Residents of Old Town and the wider Leh area have also contributed their photographs. More recently, LAMO has received images from photographers, researchers and scholars who have worked in Ladakh since the 1970s, amongst them Jaroslav Poncar, Paul Mirmont and James Crowden.
These images have been catalogued at LAMO and are accessible to the public for viewing and reference purposes.