Years in India

Fred Bremner, in the words of Brij Bhushan Sharma, "is a minor British photographer, one of hundreds who set up studios in Indian cities and cantonments in the last century, only to fade away."

But Bremner worked on the rim of the Raj, in rarely photographed areas of Baluchistan and Sindh. His camera covered decades in a vast area of the globe. A minor photographer - in a privileged position.
Chopa Rift, Baluchistan ~ 1900

Fred Bremner came to India as a poor young man from Banff, Scotland in 1883. He was to work for his brother-in-law G.W. Lawrie, a well-known photographer in Lucknow. Six years later Bremner left Lawrie opened his own studio in Karachi, the fledgling capital of Sindh. More studios followed at various times in Quetta, Baluchistan, and in Lahore and Rawalpindi in Punjab. In 1910 Bremner opened a summer studio in Simla, the summer capital of the Raj. He was assisted in his work by Mrs. Bremner, who newspaper ads referred to as especially helpful with purdah-observing ladies. Bremner retired to England in 1923. He wrote and published the memoir My Forty Years in India in 1940.

The Civil and Military Gazette
Lahore, October 22, 1900
Courtesy: National Archives of Pakistan
The late Anglo-Indian photographer of Lahore, Sandy Rollo, hired one of Bremner's former assistants in the 1930's. That assistant reported that Bremner liked to do all his work himself, and that he enjoyed a good drink.

Bremner published a volume of photographs Types of the Indian Army (1905), and Baluchistan Illustrated 1900 (1905). The latter is among the only surviving photographic records of Quetta before it was destroyed by earthquake in 1931.

Bremner also ran a flourishing postcard business, and worked on commission for a number of Punjabi feudal rulers. He often photographed the Khans of Kalat in Baluchistan. On the basis of the recollections in My Forty Years in India however, it was Kashmir that he most enjoyed. Like so many of his countrymen, he compared it to Switzerland (p.45):
. . . but Switzerland is without the charm of Oriental life, the quaint manners and customs of the people, the free and easy way of living, whether in a house-boat on the river and lakes, or going through the side valleys, which all add to the attractions of a trip to the Valley of Kashmir.
Go to the illustrated section Fred Bremner's Indian Years by Brij Bhushan Sharma

Bremner PhotoIndex #:  select albumen photographs of India, as well as a series of unique postcards, excerpts and photographs from Bremner's autobiography, and a series of Indian soldier images from his pictoral album Types of the British Indian Army.

An article on Brij Bhushan Sharma's Bremner research.

An informative essay on continuing research into British Indian photography by N. Sachdeva, Imperial Vision: Photography in British India 1857-1900 An Essay with Select Sources.


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