Randolph Bezzant Holmes Photographs, 1910-1919


Afghan War Series 1919. Print 4. Exit of the Khyber into the Peshawar Plains.

Afghan War Series 1919. Print 4. Exit of the Khyber into the Peshawar Plains.

British photographer Randolph Bezzant Holmes (1888-1973) learned the art of photography from his father William Dacia Holmes who opened the Holmes Studio in Peshawar in 1889. Randolph Holmes took over the business from his father and operated the studio as Randolph Bezzant Holmes Co. until 1947. He lived in the North-West Frontier Province of British India for over fifty years and travelled extensively throughout the region photographing much of northern India and Central Asia. Many of the detailed landscapes and topographical photographs in this exhibit were taken by Holmes when he accompanied the British colonial army during the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919.

Holmes was also a painter and an author. He published Between the Indus and the Ganges Rivers in 1956 and left a draft of Khyber Frontiers in Turmoil among his papers. The manuscript describes the social/political upheavals that rocked the North-West Frontier Province when India and Pakistan became independent in 1947. Holmes tried to convey the natural beauty of the region and of the people by hand tinting and/or over-painting his photographic prints. Examples of this work can be seen in the Holmes collection in the Rubenstein Library.

There are 92 prints in the R. B. Holmes Photographs collection. The majority of the images contain the Randolph Holmes Photograph Co. identification number and the original caption. For the exhibit, the curators augmented some of the original captions with geographic information using Peshawar, Pakistan, as a reference point.

The collection is available to researchers in the Rubenstein Library reading room.  In addition to the Randolph Bezzant Holmes materials, other collections about this region include: Bourne and Shepherd photographs of India, Nepal, and Burma ca. 1863-1875; Afghan War Photographs circa 1897; Mela Ram & Sons photographs of the Third Anglo-Afghan War, 1919-1920; William Hillman Shockley photographs of India ca. 1897-1922; and, William Gedney photographs of India ca. 1969-1980. All collections are open to researchers. A selection of images by William Gedney can be viewed in the Library’s Digital Collections http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/gedney/ and a selection of Bourne and Dayal photographs can be viewed online at https://exhibits.library.duke.edu/exhibits/show/royalindia/intro.


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