Samuel Bourne was born 30th October 1834 in Muckleston, Staffordshire in England. He is regarded as one of the first visual chroniclers of colonial India. His large-format travel photography depicts the Indian landscape and architecture, and documents the locals’ way of life, as well as that of the colonial powers.
Bourne discovered photography when he was nineteen, but made a living working in a bank (1855). In 1858, he simultaneously began travelling around England, Scotland, and North Wales, photographing the landscape. His images were first exhibited in 1859 at the Nottingham Photographic Society.
Between 1860-62 he exhibited photographs at the London Photographic Society and the World Exhibition in London.
In 1863 Samuel Bourne resigned from his job, and began his adventurous travels through the British colonies in India, where he would spend seven years of his life. In Calcutta, he joined the famous Bengal Photographic Society. In the same year, Samuel Bourne travelled through the Himalayas. At that time, this kind of photographic expedition required a great deal of preparation: The photographic equipment (including the laboratory equipment, which consisted of a number of parts, some of which were delicate) was heavy, and had to be transported by assistants. In addition, perfectionist Bourne would sometimes wait an entire day for the optimal lighting conditions for his photographs.
After he returned from the mountains, Samuel Bourne founded a partnership, "Howard, Bourne & Shepherd" (later "Bourne & Shepherd"), with Charles Shepherd, in order to secure a revenue from photography sales. Seven years later, they possessed a catalogue of circa 1,500 themes, which were for sale internationally, and successfully fed the European appetite for the exotic and foreign.
Samuel Bourne’s photographic survey of India continued: In 1864 he travelled through Kashmir, in 1866 to Upper India, then through the Himalayas. In 1867 he briefly returned to his homeland and also exhibited his photographs at the World Exhibition in Paris. In 1869, back in India, Bourne photographed the Darjeeling Temple in Madras. In 1870, Samuel Bourne left India for good, and became an independent textile manufacturer in Nottingham.
He died of a heart attack on 24th April 1912.