Notes: One of Holmes' (a second generation British photographer working in Pakistan in the early twentieth century) finest art prints, a platinum print of a studio portrait of a young Pastun woman taken in the North-West Frontier Province of India (near what is Peshawar, Pakistan, today).
Holmes is best known for his views from the field during the 3rd Afghan war. But he also explored art photography in the Pictorialist style (a related image is called Pathan Man Standing). Unlike his field photography which he usually printed as gelatin silver prints, his art images are platinum contact prints made from large negatives. In this case, the resulting image has dramatic tonal range, with the woman's linen bright white and contrasting with the deep sepia tone of the background.
The unidentified woman in this portrait is young, possibly still a teenager. She is wearing loose-fitting trousers under a white linen kameez and a long shawl that reaches nearly to the floor. In one hand she holds a curved axe-blade-shaped fan. She holds the other hand up to the camera, displaying a very large ring on her index finger. She also is wearing bracelets, nose rings, and a head chain.
Holmes posed her on a cloth backdrop that extends from above her head to below her feet, with rocks to her side and behind her. She is lit from above and to her left, casting a shadow to her side. The makeshift nature of the setup suggests that Holmes made this image away from his permanent studio in Peshawar. The rocks may have been intended to hold down the backdrop but Holmes decided to incorporate them into the image.
Image: 8-1/8 by 11-1/4 inches; Signed "Holmes 126" and captioned "Pathan woman | NWFP India" in the negative.
Edition + Condition: The print is near fine, with minor imperfections. The contrast and tonal range are excellent. The print was mounted on the typical pasteboard of the time, which has been trimmed close to the image (likely due to damage at some point).
Publication: [Peshawar, Pakistan]: [R. B. Holmes & Co.], [ca. 1920].
Item No: #360836