The collection comprises views of
structures and sculptures in Sri Lanka from the sites of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. The
twelve photographs of Anuradhapura are by Charles Thomas Scowen. The photographs of
Polonnaruwa were likely all taken by Joseph Lawton. The photographs were taken shortly after
the rediscovery of these important Buddhist monuments, but before official excavations were
begun by the Archaeological Department of Ceylon in the 1890s.
Charles T. Scowen (1852-1948) arrived in Sri Lanka as an assistant to R. Edley, a
commission agent, in 1873. In 1876 he established his first photographic studio, Scowen
& Co., in Kandy, and by 1885 he had opened a studio in Colombo. Scowen & Co., which
was especially known for its flower and plant studies, was active until the mid-1890s when
Colombo Apothecaries Co. acquired its entire negative stock. Scowen, who appears to have
become a proprietary tea planter for a time in Sri Lanka, died in Sudbury, England.