Virabadra Drug as seen from near the site of the last view
Tripe was a career military officer in India and government photographer to the Madras Presidency in the late 1850s. Between December 1857 and April 1858 he made an ambitious and difficult tour of India's southern districts to create a record for the British colonial government of the region's antiquities, scenes of historic importance, and natural phenomena. Although the mission was documentary, Tripe often drew on European pictorial conventions as a way of organizing and containing this exotic new world. This view of the rugged landscape of the Salem district, with its vanishing mountains, soft shadows, and harmonious composition, would have appealed particularly to the nineteenth-century British taste for the picturesque.
Linnaeus Tripe (British, Devonport (Plymouth Dock) 1822–1902 Devonport)
With the invention of photography, the eighteenth-century British passion for recording exotic lands and studies of the peoples in India was given new impetus. The earliest photography on the continent dates from 1840 in Calcutta, the political center of British India. The technology for photography arrived in India quickly became popular among the local rulers-many of whom employed photographers at their courts-as well as the British who had come to make their fortunes in the colony. For both populations, the new medium replaced painting as the method for recording the local landscape, architecture, people, and important events.