Distant view of the Catholic Church near Point de Galle.
Photographer: Fiebig, Frederick
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph by Frederick Fiebig from an album of 70 handcoloured salt prints, showing the Catholic Church at Point de Galle in Sri Lanka (Ceylon). Fiebig, of German origins, was active in Calcutta as an artist and lithographer in the 1840s. Little is known about his life, but turning to photography in the late 1840s he produced hundreds of photographs by the calotype process, frequently handcolouring them. His photographs of Ceylon, probably taken in 1852, are considered the earliest surviving photographic record of the island. Galle, on the south-western coast of the island, has a natural harbour and is one of the most ancient settlements of Sri Lanka, a port from pre-Christian times. It is protected by a promontory called the Rock or Galle Point. Galle was the main port of the island even though entrance to its harbour was dangerous because of submerged rocks and reefs, until supplanted in the 1870s after the construction of breakwaters in the development of Colombo's harbour. The Portuguese arrived in the early 16th century and built a small fort here, but it was after Galle was captured by the Dutch in 1640 that it achieved its greatest prosperity. The English replaced the Dutch in 1796 but made few changes to the town and today it is the surviving Dutch architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries which lends Galle its charm.