About this artwork

From the 1850s, photography was used in India by the British for 'anthropological' purposes, helping classify the different castes, tribes and native trades. This is an image of two tea plantation workers in Ceylon. The profile and frontal views of the two women suggest that the photographer was interested in them as representatives of a certain physical 'type.' The woven basket that one of them holds - used to collect tea leaves - identifies their occupation and position in the social hierarchy of British India.

William L.H. Skeen

William L.H. Skeen