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Sei Baba from Lataband.

Sei Baba from Lataband.

Photographer: Burke, John

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1879

Shelfmark: Photo 430/3(78)

Item number: 78

Length: 18.9

Width: 30.9

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph with a view looking over a British army camp in the Seh Baba valley in Afghanistan, taken by John Burke from the heights of the Lataband Pass, 1879-80. Seh Baba, situated ten miles from Jagdalak was a feature of much military importance in the Second Afghan War (1878-80). Here the country was relatively open, however beyond Seh Baba the hills closed in and movement of any large force became extremely difficult.

The photograph is part of a series of images forming the Afghan War albums which provided a visual document of the country and resulted in Burke achieving renown as the first significant photographer of Afghanistan and its people. The British became involved in Afghanistan, trying to create a buffer state and protect their Indian empire in the face of Russian expansion in Central Asia. The Anglo-Russian territorial rivalry created what came to be known as the Great Game between the powers. In 1878 Burke accompanied British forces into Afghanistan, despite being rejected for the role of official photographer. He financed his trip by advance sales of his photographs 'illustrating the advance from Attock to Jellalabad'. In his two-year expedition in Afghanistan during the Second Afghan War, Burke became the photographer of the region where the strategies of the Great Game were played out. In a latter phase of the war, from October 1879 to the summer of 1880, British troops (the Kabul Field Force) under General Roberts occupied Kabul. Burke stayed here for too for many months, photographing the city and its inhabitants and the surrounding territory. It is obvious from his varied images that he had a close relationship with the British troops and did not hesitate to be part of the frontline of action.

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