Feb 1, 2009

Dhobie (washerman) Ironing - 1870

Carte-de-visite of a dhobi ironing, one of a series of portrait studies of ethnic types and occupations taken by Bourne and Shepherd in the early 1870s. A Dhobi is a washerman and the word is derived from the hindi word dhona meaning 'to wash'. It is commonly used even today in India.

These photographs represent a common theme of traveller’s memoirs and diaries during the period of Colonial expansion in the latter half of the 19th century. As Europeans came into contact with other peoples there was an urge to document different races, customs, costumes and occupations. The diverse racial and cultural composition of the subcontinent became a photographic genre in its own right, due to both the rising science of ‘ethnology’ and to serve the demand for ‘exotic’ souvenirs of the east.