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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Sellon

Other: Robert Sellon 
Dates:  1832 - 1877, 22 January
Died:  en route from England to Bombay

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John Falconer, British Library 
A Biographical Dictionary of 19th Century Photographers in South and South-East Asia

Amateur, India
Entered Bombay Engineers 1850. Married Harriet, daughter of Captain Thomas A. Souter, in Karachi in July 1855.
At the London International Exhibition of 1862 numerous photographs by Sellon were shown, including architectural views at Badami, Vijayanagara, Banshankeri, etc., Gokak Falls, etc. Bombay Government Resolution No. 2434 of 15 October 1869 records that ‘Colonel Houghton and Captain Sellon should be asked to report what photographs they propose taking during the course of the ensuing season, and informed that Government do not intend incurring any further expenditure.’[1] Sellon’s early experiments with platinum processes are mentioned in the Photographic News in 1864:
We have before us a very interesting series of prints, illustrating a series of experiments undertaken to test the value of several other easily reducible metals, beside gold. The metals used were platinum, rhodim and irridium alone, and combined with each other, and with gold. The experiments were undertaken by Captain Sellon, whose residence in India prevents the ready reference we should have desired to enable us to state many particulars at present unexplained. The form of salt used in each instance was a sodiochloride of the metal, so prepared for convenient exportation...[2]
Ian E. Cottington[3] suggests that Sellon would have had easier access to materials than many of his Indian contemporaries owing to family connections. His father lent his brother-in-law Percival Norton Johnson (founder of the firm which later became Johnson Matthey, refiners and distributors of platinum metals) capital and thus gained some interest in the business. R.B. Sellon’s daughter later recalled that her father was ‘one of the pioneers of wet plate photography’, and that 70 years after his death ‘his pictures after all these years show very little fading.’[4]
Resolution of Government in the Public Works Department, No. 156cw-575, dated 16th March 1868 -
‘Declining to place the services of Captain Sellon and Major Houghton at the disposal of the Revenue Commissioner for the purpose of taking photographs of architectural structures; stating that there is no objection to these Officers taking photographs of any antiquities that they may meet with in the course of their tour of duty; and adding that if for this purpose they desire to make any special journey, or to incur any detention not called for by their Public Works duties, the permission of the Superintending Engineer must be obtained in the first instance.’[5]

  1. Λ Bombay Public Proceedings 1869, IOR/P/441/52 p. 346. 
  2. Λ G. Wharton Simpson, Photographic News, 15 April 1864, p. 182. 
  3. Λ Ian E. Cottington, "Platinum and early photography. Some aspects of the evolution of the platinotype", Platinum Metals Review, vol. 28, no. 4, October 1984, pp. 178-88 
  4. Λ Private correspondence from Mrs V.M. Pasteur to Mr D. McDonald, 10 October 1947, quoted in Cottington, op. cit., p. 183. 
  5. Λ Bombay Public Proceedings, April 1868, IOR/P/441/51 No. 321. 

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