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Fisher, Alfred Hugh, 1867 -1945 (artist and photographer)



Alfred Hugh Fisher was born in London in 1867 and educated at the City of London School and University College. After 9 years in a city office he relinquished business for art and studied at Lambeth, South Kensington and Paris under Laurens and Constant.

On 29th July 1907 he was chosen by the Visual Instruction Committee to illustrate lecture materials about the Empire for use in British schools. His appointment was for up to three years from 1st September at a salary of £25 a month, plus traveling and subsistence allowance. The Committee reserved to themselves absolute control over the work produced by him during his engagement. It was thought that the scheme would need some 1800 slides, elected from an average of 3 original each. Priority was to be given to Canada, India and South Africa, with Australia and New Zealand, the West Indies, East and West Africa, the Mediterranean and ocean routes as further areas. Fisher would work under the direction of Sir Halford Mackinder, who was to be paid a salary of £300 for his general oversight of the project, in addition to fees for preparing lectures. As Fisher was an artist and not a photographer, he was trained in photographic techniques by the two senior employees of Emery Walker of Sussex House, at a fee of 5 guineas for 10 lessons.

The original aim was to send Fisher to Ceylon and India, then through East Asia to Canada, returning to the United Kingdom in May 1908, with a subsequent journey on the reverse route returning via the Mediterranean; this would enable him to photograph India and Canada at different seasons. However, it was later decided to cover the whole of India in one visit, and Canada the following year. Mackinder issued detailed instructions to Fisher in October. His itinerary included several stops of two or three days in one place since it was thought that he would be able to absorb the atmosphere better than at too rapid a movement from place to place, and he was given authority to purchase photographs for important areas he could not visit. He was to have the educational rather than the pictorial aspect in mind and was to present both the 'native characteristics of the country' and the 'super-added characteristics due to British rule'. He was advised to give a feeling of movement where possible by having people engaged in some activity in the foreground rather than static views of buildings etc. The negatives were to be sent to Newman and Guardia, who would develop them and prepare one print each; the list of photographs taken and the paintings were to be sent direct to Mackinder.

Fisher's journey to Ceylon, India and Burma was originally intended to include Somaliland, Cyprus, Malta and Gibraltar, but he was instructed to omit the last two in order to arrive back in London in time for a projected showing of slides in the presence of the Princess of Wales. This did not in fact take place. Fisher resumed his travels on 24 July 1908 and went to Canada, in which he followed a rather complicated route before sailing from Vancouver on 28 October to visit Wei-hai-wei, Hong Kong, part of the Chinese mainland, Singapore and North Borneo. March 1909 found him back in Canada where he saw something of the end of the winter.

During the summer of 1909 the Princess of Wales attended a meeting on the project at Caxton Hall. £150 was spent on renewing and improving Fisher's equipment and he spent six weeks in the U.K. trying out the apparatus and taking photographs of British scenes for use in lectures for Canada and South Africa. At this time too he married Lillias Wyman.

His final tour was via Gibraltar and Malta to New Zealand, the Pacific and Australia, but money was running out; he was instructed to omit Papua and in 1910 he was informed that no more money was available for expenses and he could not be offered a further engagement. Fisher produced vivid and interesting descriptions of his journeys. His later writings appear to have been chiefly poetry. Lillias Fisher died in 1930 and Hugh Fisher died 2 July 1945.


Typescript copy of 'Index to Photographers'.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:


Fisher photograph collection

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/Fisher
Scope and Contents Collection of 29 albums consisting of approximately 3864 photographs taken or collected by A.H. Fisher for the Colonial Office Visual Instruction Committee 1907-1910. The numbering of the collection is problematic and details are provided for each separate album. Photographers: Some of the names which appear are:Hutchins: donor of some photographs of India, but not otherwise identifiedFirebrace: donor of some photographs of India, but not otherwise identifiedRighi: ...
Dates: 1900 - 1910
Conditions Governing Access: Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

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