An exhibition of photographs taken by Captain Linnaeus Tripe during a tour of India and Burma is on show in The Metropolitan Museum in New York, and will then move to London's Victoria and Albert Museum. The collection of 60 images made on paper negatives displays historic places, buildings, geology and the infrastructure of parts of the two countries. In some cases, they were the first photographs ever to be taken of these sites. The exhibition, 'Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1852-1860', covers eight years of Tripe's output.

Tripe had been commissioned by the governor-general of India to work with a mission to Burma to record the landscape and architecture of the region, including ancient monuments, religious and secular buildings. Shot during the advent of the wet collodion glass plate process, Tripe's images were made using the older calotype process with the negatives being made on paper. As was common at the time, Tripe coated his developed negatives in melted wax to increase the transparency of the paper and to plump-up its fibers so their texture could be reduced in the final contact print.

Born in Plymouth Dock, Devon, England in 1822 and the ninth of twelve children, Tripe joined the East India Company army in 1838 and became stationed in Palaveram in the south of India. He returned to England in 1850 for two years leave, but fell ill and stayed until 1854. During this time he took an interest in photography and learnt how to use a camera. He practiced in his hometown of Davenport, in London and in Paris before his leave was up.

He carried on taking pictures on his return to India, recording the temples in Hullebede and Belloor in Mysore, south India, and won acclaim with 68 images exhibited in Madras in 1855. He came to the attention of the governor of Madras who was a member of the Madras Photographic Society, and was later recommended to accompany a tour of the newly annexed Pengu region of Burma. In an early victory over the pencil, it had been decided by that photography was a more reliable and quicker form of representation than drawing, so Tripe was instructed to join the mission and to photograph significant sites he came across.

Conditions in India made almost everything difficult - the heat melted the wax on his negatives and reportedly melted many of his assistants in the darkroom, and while Tripe was technically proficient he was not always pleased with the quality he was able to produce.

In 1857 Tripe began working as the official photographer of Madras, and at the same time began to switch to the new wet collodion process. With the 1857 uprising the East India Company lost control of India to the British Crown and Tripe became the victim of cost cutting two years later, eventually re-joining the army in 1863. By 1873 he was a full colonel, and had already shot his last series of pictures in Burma. When he retired to England in 1874 he took up collecting shells and coral instead of carrying on with his photography.

'Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of Burma and India, 1852-1860' will be on show at the MET in New York until May 25th, and will then be at the V&A Museum from June 24th until October 11th 2015. Entry at the MET costs $25, and is free at the V&A.