Samuel Bourne's India
When the British Army entered Afghanistan in 1878 to secure allegiances from the tribal leaders in order to pre-empt any Russian territorial ambitions, John Burke accompanied the Peshawar Field Force column but not as an official photographer, his application having been rejected. He saw the war as an opportunity for personal gain and had placed an advertisement in the Lahore Military Gazette offering photographs of the Second Afghan War 'illustrating the advance from Attock to Jellalabad'. These were later sold in albums in Britain. The special artist of the Illustrated London News, William Simpson, was also attached to the same column and makes reference to Burke on several occasions in his diary such as the following: "May 14, 1879: Bourke the Photographer has a bad foot and our Artistic interview with Yakoob Kahn is put off till Friday." A note in The Graphic on July 12, 1879 reads: "Mr. J. Burke," writes our artist [Frederic Villiers], "the photographic artist attached to our Indian Army to illustrate the advance of the troops and the grand scenery of Afghanistan, was permitted by the Ameer of Cabul to take a series of pictures of himself and his suite at the camp at Gandamak. One of my sketches illustrates the process of 'posing' the Ameer, who indulged in a quiet smoke during the preparation of the photographic plates. After Mr. Burke had taken him in his gorgeous uniform of white and gold, the Ameer showed great anxiety to see the results, and Major Cavagnari explained to him the process of photography." With regard to the very brilliant uniform in which the Ameer arrayed himself or the occasion, the correspondent of the Daily News [Simpson] writes that the costume was perfectly European in all its details...He was photographed with his helmet on, and then with it off...
Burke's photographs in the Brown military collection are mounted in Simpson's album of his water-colors and sketches (with Simpson's manuscript captions) and consist of the following:
1. Sir Samuel Browne, Major-General
2. At Lundi Kotal, Khyber Pass, 1879
3. Group photographed at Jellalabad by Burke, Jan. 1879
4. [Group scene including Khalik Khan, Cavagnari, and Jenkyns]
5. Afghans photog'd at Jellalabad by Burke, 1879
6. Officers of the 10th Hussars, Jellalabad, 1879
7. Group photographed at Headquarters, Gundamuck by Burke, May 1879
8. Mr. Jenkins, Major Cavagnari, Amir Yakub Khan, David Shah, Habib Allah Khan. Photo by Burke, Gundamuck, 16th May 1879
9. [Photograph of Amir Shere Ali Khan. Died at Maimuna 21 Jan. 1879]
10. [Portrait of Ami Khan]
Khan, Omar, 'John Burke, Photo-Artist of the Raj', History of Photography Vol. 21, No.3 (Autumn, 1997), 236-257.