"One of the earliest photographs of Maldivians ever taken (1885). Original is at the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin. The photographer was Carl Wilhelm Rosset who stayed as a guest of Prime Minister Ibrahim Didi in Male' in the year 1885, but was never granted permission by Sultan Ibrahim Nooraddeen to travel to the other islands to complete his ethnographic/scientific study.
I assume these photographs were most likely staged, judging from the type of photography back then, which would have required the subjects to stand still for several seconds and sometimes minutes while the photograph was being taken. In the series which was published first in 'The Graphic' as lithographs on October 16, 1886, this is the only photo with a detailed background, that looks painted. Even if the background is a painting it is interesting to think who would have done such a detailed painting of that scale, more than 130 years ago, in the Maldives and what became of it. The photographer stayed in Male' for less than 2 months (30/10-21/12), which means that he probably didn't paint it himself, and the painter could have even been Maldivian; or he could have brought it with him from Colombo. I guess we might never know." - Shifaan Thoufeequ