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Afterimage of EmpirePhotography in Nineteenth-Century India$
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Zahid R. Chaudhary

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780816677481

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816677481.001.0001

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Armor and Aesthesis

Armor and Aesthesis

The Picturesque in Difference

(p.106) (p.107) Three Armor and Aesthesis
Afterimage of Empire

Zahid R. Chaudhary

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter analyzes Samuel Bourne’s photography alongside the work of the Indian photographers Deen Dayal, Abbas Ali, and Ahmed Ali Khan. Abbas Ali and Khan represent transitional aesthetic strategies insofar as they look to local tradition and Mughal miniatures in their photographic practice, while Dayal is invested in assimilating the conventions of the picturesque. Their varying aesthetic impulses reveal the stress and pressure that signifying systems undergo at times of historical change. In Bourne’s landscape photographs, mimesis—as a reflection not only of the object but also of the feelings that the object has provoked—is inextricable from visual pleasure. The pleasure of the picturesque, rather than the terror of the sublime, converts difference into the familiar, the experiential into a recognizable image. Because the picturesque aesthetic in the colonies overlays the foreign with the familiar, this genre of photography can be read as a subjective engagement with objective structures of colonial extraction. The chapter makes the case that the picturesque aesthetic marks a modernizing point of view for which the conversion of experience into an image serves a compensatory function.

Keywords:   Samuel Bourne, photography, Indian photographers, Deen Dayal, Abbas Ali, Ahmed Ali Khan, mimesis, picturesque

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