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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Bertram Rattray

Dates:  1842, 17 July - ?

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Unidentified photographer
Bertram Rattray 
1868 (or earlier)
Family history 
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John Falconer, British Library 
A Biographical Dictionary of 19th Century Photographers in South and South-East Asia

Amateur, India
Son of Robert Haldane Rattray, Bengal Civil Service; baptised, St Thomas’s, Calcutta, 17 Sep 1842;[1] District Superintendent of Police, Chittagong.
In July 1873, Captain T. H. Lewin, Deputy Commissioner, Chittagong Hill Tracts, wrote to the Commissioner of the Chittagong Division, about the collection of ethnological information:
With reference to the correspondence marginally noted [From Commissioner, No. 841, dated 11 December 1872; from Deputy Commissioner, No. 20D, dated 23 January 1873], forwarding to me the valuable work of Colonel Dalton on the descriptive ethnology of Bengal, I have the honor respectfully to point out that the book, however complete in other respects, is at present wanting in adequate information as to the tribes inhabiting this portion of the Indian Empire, notably in reference to the Kookie or Lushai and other cognate tribes of the South-Eastern Frontier.
2. I venture to represent that in the interests of science, as also for the collection of such complete data, ethnological and anthropological, which are necessary to every Government in regard to the races included within its sway, it is desirable that some detailed record of the tribes inhabiting the Chittagong Hills should be prepared supplementary to Colonel Dalton’s work, and which could, if necessary, be included in a future edition.
3. With this view I have the honor to recommend that Mr Rattray, District Superintendent of Police, in Chittagong, who is a skilled photographer, be granted such leave during the ensuing cold season as would enable him to prepare a series of photographs of types of the different tribes of these hills, to which I shall, if Government desire it, superadd such descriptive matter as may be obtainable.
4. I should state that I have consulted Mr Rattray on the matter, and he has expressed a willingness to place his services at the disposal of Government for this purpose.[2]
In July 1873, H. Hankey, Officiating Commissioner of the Chittagong Division, recommended that Rattray be seconded for photographic work to take ethnographical portraits of local tribes:
I have the honor to submit the enclosed copy of a letter from the Deputy Commissioner of the Hill Tracts for the consideration of His Honor the Lieutenant-Governor.
2. I beg to give Captain Lewin’s proposal a cordial support. The opportunity is a good one and should not be refused. Mr Rattray is a capital photographer and accustomed to a good deal of roughing; in fact, peculiarly suited for the work in hand. The photographs thus obtained, supplemented by Captain Lewin’s promised descriptive notices, will form a valuable addition to Captain Dalton’s already valuable work.
3. I would therefore suggest that Mr Rattray be granted special leave for two or three months, say December to February, which are the best months for camping, as well as atmospherically best for photography; or he might be temporarily gazetted to the Hill Tracts with this object in view.[3]
R. Knight, Assistant Secretary to the Government of Bengal in the Statistical Department, replied in the affirmative in a letter dated Calcutta, 3 September 1873:
I am directed to acknowledge receipt of your letter No. 605, dated 23rd July last, and in reply to inform you that the Lieutenant-Governor accepts with pleasure the proposal to depute Mr Rattray, District Superintendent of Police, Chittagong, to take photographs of the Kookie, Lushai, and other cognate tribes of the South-East Frontier.
2. Separate orders will be issued detaching Mr Rattray with his present duties and placing him on special duty for three months in the ensuing cold season for the purpose of taking these photographs. Arrangements will also be made for carrying on the duties of the District Superintendent of Police at Chittagong during Mr Rattray’s absence.
3. The Lieutenant-Governor is much obliged to Captain Lewin for his offer to write an ethnological description of the races and tribes which Mr Rattray may photograph.[4]
[Proceedings of the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, Industry and Science Department, September 1873, pp. 57-58, IOR/P/186]
For this work, ‘Mr Locke, Superintendent of the School of Industry, asked if he could furnish Mr Rattray with the loan for three or four months of a camera large enough to take photographs of the sizes of the plates in Colonel Dalton’s Ethnology.’[5] Captain Waterhouse, Head of the Photographic Branch of the Surveyor-General’s Office, was also asked for the loan of a camera, but was apparently unable to supply one.[6] A suitable camera was not to be found for loan and Rattray was instructed to proceed with whatever instruments he had to hand.
In February 1874 the ‘Commissioner of Chittagong informed Mr Rattray can keep the chemicals and other articles purchased by him till next season, and that the bill for Rs. 715, on account of charges incurred in purchasing the chemicals, is sanctioned’.[7]
[IOR/N/1/67 f. 167; See V/12/124 for service record.] 

  1. Λ Bengal baptisms, IOR/N/1/67 f. 167. 
  2. Λ Captain T.H. Lewin to commissioner of the Chittagong Division, dated Sirthay, 2 July 1873, Bengal proceedings (Industry and Science Department), September 1873, IOR/P/186, pp.57-8. 
  3. Λ H. Hankey, officiating commissioner, Chittagong Division, to secretary to Government of Bengal, Bengal proceedings (Industry and Science Department), September 1873, IOR/P/186, p.57. 
  4. Λ Bengal proceedings, Industry and Science Department, September 1873, IOR/P/186 pp. 57-58. 
  5. Λ Bengal proceedings, Statistical department (Industry and Science), October 1873, IOR/P/186. 
  6. Λ idem. 
  7. Λ idem. 

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