Bridgeman Images is proud to represent The Ann & Bury Peerless Archive. The collection contains over 20,000 unique images offering a fascinating insight into cultures and religions around the world, mostly taken during the 1960s to the 1990s. The collection incorporates images from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan, Uganda to Cambodia, India to Russia, and covering most of the major religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Islam and Zoroastrianism. The Archive was all shot using stunning 35mm Kodachrome slide film, and is newly digitised.
Bury Peerless was born in 1922. At the age of 10, he received his first camera which sparked a lifelong interest in the medium of photography. In addition, Bury had an insatiable interest in the history of the British Empire and Africa. Through photography, Bury was able to capture the history he was living and seeing through his travels.
After World War II, Bury took a job in the British territory of Malaya, arriving in Kuala Lumpur in June 1948, on the first day of The Malayan Emergency, which set in motion events that would lead to its independence from Britain and the eventual formation of present-day Malaysia. His various roles for insurance companies between 1948 and 1960 afforded him the opportunity to spend time in locations with rich cultures such as Singapore, India, Kenya, and Uganda, where he sold insurance to the royal families of East Africa. By the time Bury arrived in Africa he had upgraded his equipment to the
professional Leica IIF, and started using Kodachrome film, which he continued to use until it was
Bury returned to England in 1960, and began to lecture to local schools about some of the places he had visited. The lectures were a success, and the schools wanted to see more. In 1964, he would travel to Iran where he would coincidentally meet executives from the Iranian Oil Operating Companies which set in motion a new area of interest, the Oil Industry of Iran as well as the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism. Upon his return to England, he was invited to lecture on his findings in Iran at Shell House, which in turn led to an invitation to a reception at the Royal Academy of Arts in June 1965, where he met his future wife, Ann. Ann and Bury would work as a team from then on, traveling the world together.
Bury’s photographs gained prestige and in 1967, the Government of India commissioned him to photograph India’s major cultural sites. Over the next few years, he would be commissioned by Air India, The Clarks (hotel) group, and Pakistan International Airways to take photographs. Air India used Bury’s photographs to promote tourism in India and show how beautiful a country it is, as well as Ann’s artistic talents to develop unique paper cut-out window displays in London.
Bury was an early member of the Shap Working Party on World Religions in Education, and his photographs, which were duplicated and sold as edited sets, became an excellent resource for the teaching of world religions, and became widely known in education.
Later, the Ann & Bury Peerless Picture Library was formed, and the images were published in books. Bury’s most active years were between 1965 and 1980, but he continued to photograph and travel around the world for the rest of his life. The Archive includes images of Afghanistan, Burma, Cambodia, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Libya, Malaysia, Malta, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. He studied and documented the religions of each of the countries that he visited. The photographs show life in these countries, from agriculture to industry and medicine.
The Archive is now run by David Peerless, Ann and Bury’s son. It encompasses over 70 years of photography through the eyes of someone with often unique and exclusive access. Some of the photographs depict sites that were ultimately destroyed, including the Tomb of Cyrus the Great in Iran, the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, and the inside the Akal Takht at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, which would later be rebuilt. The photographs offer a rare insight into the religions of the world with their historical and social context intact and can be used as learning materials for years to come.