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Beauties of Lucknow © Darogha Abbas Ali | Image source internet
Beauties of Lucknow © Darogha Abbas Ali | Image source internet

Abbas Ali

Darogha Haji Ubbas Alli (aka Darogha Abbas Ali) was a 19th-century Indian engineer and photographer. Following his retirement as a municipal engineer in Lucknow, Alli began photographing the city and its surroundings in the 1870s. He published three albums from 1874 to 1880. The Lucknow Album and Beauties of Lucknow both dated 1874. In 1880, he produced another photographic album, An Illustrated Historical Album of Rajas and Taaluqdars of Oudh, comprising images of the landed gentry of Oudh. Ali’s other photography concerned the nautch women of Lucknow.

All three works are leather-bound single volumes; each with varying amounts of text. The Lucknow album consisting of a map of Lucknow and photographic illustrations of tombs, churches, old and new buildings of the town. The Album is rich in text describing in detail the sites. The album was intended as a guide to Lucknow town. The album contains 50 photographs which are all albumen print of 9.5×6 cm size. the illustrated Historical Album of Rajas and Taaluqdars of Oudh, with 344 photographs, albumen prints, 3.75 x 2.25. 3 x 2 inches, titled in Arabic script. The smaller albumen prints are mounted four-per-page within ruled borders in the album. The album is the visual list of local minor Rajas, wealthy Muslims, Hindu landlords with the headgear, attire, and appearance.

Darogha Ubbas Alli used albumen prints on carte-de-visite, due to its simplicity and inexpensiveness to produce. The carte-de-visite, abbreviated CdV, was a type of small photograph which was patented in Paris by actor and daguerreotypist André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri in 1854. Indian Albums for the collection and display of cards became a common fixture in England’s elite. The carte de visite was usually made of an albumen print, which was a thin paper photograph mounted on a thicker paper card. They were created by using a sliding plate holder and a camera with four lenses. The original albums are found in British Library and in The Alkazi Collection of Photography in India.

Ali’s work evinces traces of the muraqqaʿ (albums of collated paintings), possibly the modes of conveyance bringing sixteenth- through eighteenth-century subjects, compositions, and aesthetic concerns into the nineteenth century. Lucknow was one of the principal centers for the patronage of painting techniques, styles and subjects descended from the Mughal period (1526–1857). The muraqqaʿ was not simply a repository of historical masterpieces; it continued to be a patronized mode of artistic production into the age of photography.

Published on February 3, 2021
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