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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Richard Banner Oakeley

Active:  India
Noted for his outstanding series The Pagoda of Hallibeed, illustrated by fifty-six photographic views, with descriptive letter-press, (London: Published by Thomas M'Lean, 1859)

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Approved biography for Richard Banner Oakeley
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

Of the various photographers of archaeology in India, Oakeley stands out as one of the finest. Near the end of 1856, advised by his friend Andrew Neill, he paid a visit to the ruins at Halebid in southwestern India. Oakeley took a number of waxed-paper negatives, later published as albumen prints in his The Pagoda of Hallibeed, Illustrated by Fifty-six Photographic Views. In spite of a broken apparatus and servants who were ill with rheumatic fever, he did an extraordinary job. His text reveals that he had previously visited “a great number of the most celebrated Pagodas in the South of India,” but that “this was my first attempt at Photographing in a hot climate. I was compelled to reject the formulae I had used in England.” He was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and Sir Henry Rawlinson, praising his photographs, made the library of the Royal Asiatic Society freely available to him. Amazingly, beyond these details and the visual testimony of his photographs, we know almost nothing about Oakeley. He obviously traveled a great deal, missing all the censuses in the nineteenth century. In 1859, when he married Mary Ann Field of Shrewsbury, he was living at Oswaldkirk Hall in Yorkshire. In 1859 and 1862 Oakeley stood as the parliamentary candidate for Shrewsbury, both times unsuccessfully, and was a resident of Oswaldkirk, Yorkshire, in 1862. In 1863 he was one of the directors of the Stafford and Uttoxeter Railway and by 1864 also a director of the Opera Company in London. Oakeley’s largest claim to fame is as the plaintiff in a three-year trial that started in 1859. He was duped out of a 6,500 pound loan by the ambassador for the king of the Indian province of Oudh, who claimed to need the money to build an embassy in England. 
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. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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John Falconer, British Library 
A Biographical Dictionary of 19th Century Photographers in South and South-East Asia

Amateur, India
Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
56 architectural views from waxed paper negatives appear in his Pagoda of Hallibeed (M’Lean, London, 1859), published in an edition of 25 copies, which states in the preface: Little is known of Richard Banner Oakeley, apart from the fact that he was a member of the Royal Geographical Society, and gives some account of his travels and photographic activities in the preface to the work:
Whilst travelling through the Madras Presidency towards the close of 1856, I was strongly recommended by my friend, Dr. Neill, of the 1st Madras Light Cavalry [Andrew Charles Brisbane Neill (qv), who himself photographed extensively at Halebid], to visit Hallibeede...I was told of a wonderful Temple said to exist there, but very few of the many from whom I sought information, knew anything about it, and it was with very great difficulty, and after a march of some twenty days along the most miserable cross country roads conceivable, that I succeeded in finding this splendid Temple....Having a Photographic Apparatus with me, I lost no time in committing to waxed paper faithful reproductions of almost every portion of the Sculpture, which literally covers its wall. Of the merit of the Photographs as specimens of art, I must leave an indulgent public to judge, only observing, by way of anticipating critcism, that they were done under very great disadvantages, - a considerable portion of my apparatus was broken in the over-land journey, our servants were all ill, many at the same time with rheumatic fever, and moreover, this was my first attempt at Photographing in a hot climate. I was compelled to reject the formulae I had used in England, and adopt such as residents in the country found to succeed, or discover new ones for myself...To the zealous assistance of my friend and travelling companion, Mr Gregory Knight, I owe much of my success, and have to thank him for many a pleasant hour spent in his society, which would otherwise have hung heavily on my hands...
Political Home Correspondence, letter from R.B. Oakely regarding the loan of £5000 to Moulvee Musa-Ood-Deen, received 14 Nov 1862. Cited in IOR/Z/L/PS/3/9. Not checked. Is this the same figure? 

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