The historical and cultural heritage of Sri Lanka dates back more than 3,000 years. The country has been ruled by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. Almost 70% of this country’s population follow Buddhism. In the recent past, the country has seen communal clashes between the Buddhist Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan Tamil Hindus who were brought into the country to work on the tea estates by the British and who are based in the northern part of the country.
Sri Lanka has a wealth of natural beauty and this has been captured by many early photographers. A. W. Plate & Co.,
probably Ceylon's best known early photographic firms, was also a major publisher of postcards. Founded in 1890 by A. W. Plate, this firm survives until today. Plate had three offices in Colombo, traveled extensively, and produced many of the most beautiful early images of Sri Lanka in postcards. Even Plate's India images are outstanding.
Another important source was Plate's rival The Colombo Apothecaries Ltd.
which published many images by the famous early photographer Charles Scowen who was active in Ceylon during the 1870s.
Raphael Tuck & Sons
based in London are another source of old images of Sri Lanka. Raphael Tucks cards are unique in their an impressive use of color that ranges from delicate impressionistic shades to thick brushstrokes. John & Co.
and M.B. Uduman
are other prominent photographers and image publishers featured in these images.
Fortunately, significant new research is shedding light on early photography in Sri Lanka, much of it undertaken by the Colombo-based writer Ismeth Raheem. Despite its size relative to British India, the quality of images produced by a variety of photographers in 19th and early 20th century Ceylon was far richer than its size would suggest. A remarkable number of superb image artists ended up in Ceylon.