Costume [Custom] House, Madras
Photographer: Fiebig, Frederick
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the Custom House at Madras, taken by Frederick Fiebig in c.1851. This photograph is one of a series of hand-coloured salt prints. In the 19th century Madras was one of India’s major ports and handled high volumes of import and export trade with Britain and other parts of the world. The Custom House stood on the harbour foreshore at George Town and was one of a number of handsome colonial buildings built in the early 19th century. A flagstaff is mounted in front and boats used to transport passengers and cargo to shore are drawn up on the beach in the foreground. Little seems to be known about Frederick Fiebig. He was probably born in Germany and became a lithographer (and possibly was also a piano teacher) in Calcutta, publishing a number of prints in the 1840s. In the late 1840s Fiebig turned to photography using the calotype process, producing prints that were often hand-coloured. His photographs includes several hundred views of Calcutta in the early 1850s, one of the earliest detailed studies of a city, a large hand coloured collection of which were bought by the East India Company in 1856, their first major acquisition of photographs. Among the roughly 500 pictures were views of Calcutta, Madras, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Cape Town.