The name “Ceylon” conjures images of a tropical paradise of tea plantations and palm trees, not only for us in the twenty-first century, but also for photographers of the late nineteenth century. Despite the technical difficulties of photography at that time, skilled photographers captured the unique characteristics of this island off the southeast coast of India, now called Sri Lanka. This exhibition features photographs of some of the most picturesque aspects of Ceylon, including the natural beauty of its people and landscapes. The nineteenth century was also a time of great social change, so these views of urban spaces present a visual record of the cusp between tradition and modernity occurring not only here, but throughout the British Empire. This collection of photographs from Ceylon forms an important component of the promised gift of Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt to The Ringling.
Scowen & Co., Kandyan Chiefs, late 19th century, Promised gift of Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt, TR2007.2823.422.