<p>This ghat (a set of riverfront steps) on the River Benares in Varanasi was considered a holy site and used for cremation rituals. The photo was taken in 1922.</p>

Burning Ghat

This ghat (a set of riverfront steps) on the River Benares in Varanasi was considered a holy site and used for cremation rituals. The photo was taken in 1922.

Photograph by Bourne and Shepherd, Nat Geo Image Collection

See Photos From the World’s Oldest Operating Photo Studio

These vintage shots capture 20th century India in black and white.

In June, India’s Bourne & Shepherd photography studios shut down, buckling under legal, financial, and technological pressures.

Photographers Samuel Bourne and William Howard opened the company in 1863 in Shimla, India, later adding Charles Shepherd to the partnership. By 1865, they had opened a second location in Calcutta, and a Bombay branch popped up in 1875. With a successful flow of portraiture and documentary work, Bourne & Shepherd was considered the oldest running photography studio in the world.

While the studio was thriving in the 1920s, National Geographic photographer Maynard Owen Williams purchased these eight photos that captured India in the early 20th century.

Subscribing members can see more vintage photos from India in the magazine archive, like those in this classic 1926 feature.

Follow Elaina Zachos on Twitter.

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