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HomeContents > People > Photographers > John Cooke Bourne

Other: J.C. Bourne 
Dates:  1814, 1 September - 1896, February
Died:  Great Britain, Brentford
Active:  Russia
Artist, engraver, lithographer and photographer with an interest in railways and construction. He learned his engraving skills from J.W.M. Turner's favorite engraver John Pyle in the 1830s. He was the official photographer for the Czar on the construction of Charles Blacker Vignoles' bridge across the River Dneiper where he documented progress on a weekly basis - first as artwork and later as photographs (late 1848 - October 1853). He travelled with Roger Fenton to Moscow and St. Petersburg in 1852. The rediscovery of his photographs was reported in the journal "History of Photography" (2004).

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Approved biography for John Cooke Bourne
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

The son of a London hatter, Bourne was emerging by the 1830s as a draftsman of unusual skill. A chance meeting with the author and antiquary John Britton brought about his involvement in a project to document the construction of the London and Birmingham Railway. Published in four volumes in 1839 and extensively illustrated with tinted lithographs made from Bourneís camera lucida drawings, this work was the first documentation of British railways. By 1847 Bourne was in the employ of the engineer Charles Blacker Vignoles, working in Russia documenting a series of civil works projects. In September 1852 Bourne was joined by Roger Fenton to document Vignolesís grand suspension bridge over the Dnieper River at Kiev. Bourne had experimented with the daguerreotype and by then was taking calotypes to supplement his drawings; Fenton was invited along to contribute large-format stereo photographs for the Wheatstone stereo viewer. Fenton and Vignoles were instrumental in founding the Photographic Society in London. Elected a member in May 1853, Bourne contributed nineteen calotype and waxed-paper images of Russia to the societyís 1854 exhibition, and he would go on to design and patent a camera with a built-in darkroom for developing wet-collodion negatives in the field. 
Roger Taylor & Larry J. Schaaf Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 4 Nov 2012. 
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