Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Roger Fenton
Self-Portrait, February 1852
Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York
From NGA, Washington, DC at .nga.gov

Roger Fenton was born in Crimble Hall, Heap, Bury, Lancashire, 28 March 1819. His grandfather was a wealthy cotton manufacturer and banker, his father a banker and Member of Parliament. Fenton was the fourth of seven children by his father's first marriage. His father had 10 more children by his second wife.
In 1838 Fenton went to University College London where he graduated in 1840 with a "first class" Bachelor of Arts degree, having studied English, mathematics, Greek and Latin. In 1841, he began to study law at University College, evidently sporadically as he did not qualify as a solicitor until 1847, in part because he had become interested in studying to be a painter. In Yorkshire in 1843 Fenton married Grace Elizabeth Maynard, presumably after his first sojourn in Paris (his passport was issued in 1842) where he may briefly have studied painting in the studio of Paul Delaroche. When he registered as a copyist in the Louvre in 1844 he named his teacher as the history and portrait painter Michel Martin Drolling, who taught at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, but Fenton's name does not appear in the records of that school. By 1847 Fenton had returned to London where he continued to study painting under the tutelage of the history painter Charles Lucy, who became his friend and with whom, starting in 1850, he served on the board of the North London School of Drawing and Modeling. In 1849, 1850, and 1851 he exhibited paintings in the annual exhibitions of the Royal Academy.
(WIKIPEDIA at en.wikipedia.org)

Queen Victoria, 11 May 1854
(Before the cage crinoline became fashionable)
Commissioned by Queen Victoria
From gogmsite.net

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert re-enact their wedding
From associatedcontent.com

The Cloisters, Tintern Abbey
From NGA, Washington, DC at nga.gov

Fenton himself photographed Tintern Abbey, and his landscapes reveal a reverence for nature that echoes Wordsworth's passion. These lines also suggest Fenton's belief that the perceptive eye of the camera could record "all the mighty world." Always exploring new subjects and testing the limits of his practice, Fenton photographed Britain's ruined abbeys and stately homes, Russian architecture, romantic landscapes, the collections of the British Museum, the Crimean War, the royal family, as well as "Orientalist scenes" and still lifes.
(National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC at nga.gov)
The photographic career of Roger Fenton (1819-1869) lasted only eleven years, but during that time he became the most famous photographer in Britain. Part of the second generation of photographers who came to maturity in the 1850s—only a decade after the process was invented—Fenton strove to elevate the new medium to the status of a fine art and to establish it as a respected profession. He was the first official photographer to the British Museum and one of the founders of the Photographic Society, later named the Royal Photographic Society, an organization he hoped would help establish the medium's importance in modern life.
In the 1850s Fenton took the new technology of wet-plate photography to high levels of artistic achievement and public visibility. In that decade he was the pre-eminent landscape and architectural photographer in England and a founding member of the Royal Photographic Society. His photography was many-sided: he made reproductions of collections in the British Museum, took portraits of the Royal Family at Windsor and at their country seat in Scotland and went to the Crimea to record a controversial war. Fenton brought a painter’s eye to the new medium, enthusiastically exploiting the new methods as they evolved.
(The Hungarian Quarterly at hungarianquarterly.com)

A group of Croat laborers, 1855
Source Library of Congress
From WIKIMEDIA COMMONS at commons.wikimedia.org

Hardships in the Camp, 1855
From artic.edu

Tartar laborers
From old-picture.com

Sententiae: Crimean War
From allworldwars.com

Roger Fenton's Crimean War photo series is the first historic attempt to portray war campaign with the help of new magic photo media, then still in its infancy. Sent as a replacement for the Richard Nicklin, a civilian photographer, who was lost at sea, along with his assistants, photographs, and equipment, when their ship sank during the hurricane that stuck the harbor at Balaklava on November 14, 1854. Fenton spend March-June 1855 in Crimea as an official campaign photographer, payed by the British government, recording participants and landscapes for posterity. These records never managed to capture battles, explosions, devastations, wounds, blood and tears, partly due to the limitations of photographic techniques of the period, but also because of official wish to glamorize the war and shift public attention away from government and military mismanagement, for which Crimean campaign became infamously known.
(The Apricity forums at theapricity.com)

Fenton's Photographic Van, 1855
From museumsyndicate.com

The valley of the shadow of death, 1855
Source Taken from A World History of Photography
Original in the Science Museum, London.
From WIKIPEDIA at en.wikipedia.org

Shadow of the Valley of Death, 1855
Dirt road in ravine scattered with cannonballs, Crimea
Source Library of Congress
From WIKIPEDIA at en.wikipedia.org

Due to the size and cumbersome nature of his photographic equipment, Fenton was limited in his choice of motifs. And because the photographic material of his time needed long exposures, he was only able to produce pictures of unmoving objects, mostly posed pictures. But he also photographed the landscape, including an area near to where the Light Brigade - made famous in Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" - was ambushed, called The Valley of Death; however, Fenton's photographs were taken in the similarly named The Valley of the Shadow of Death. Modern photographers consider this picture, taken while under fire, to be a seminal piece of war photography. Two pictures were taken of this area, one with several cannonballs on the road, the other with an empty road. Opinions differ concerning which one was taken first. Filmmaker Errol Morris wrote a series of essays canvassing the evidence and concluded that the photo without the cannonballs was taken first, but he remained uncertain about who moved the balls onto the road in the second picture - were they deliberately placed on the road by Fenton to enhance the image, or were soldiers in the process of removing them for reuse?
(WIKIPEDIA at en.wikipedia.org)

Kamiesch in the distance
Sir John Campbell's marquis tent in the foreground
From allworldwars.com

Cossack Bay, Balaklava
From allworldwars.com

Field Marshall Lord Raglan
From allworldwars.com

Lieutenant General Sir John L. Pennefather
From allworldwars.com

Sir Colin Campbell
From allworldwars.com

Council of War
Lord Raglan's Head Quarters
Lord Raglan, Maréchal Pélissier, & Omar Pacha
Morning of the successful attack on the Mamelon
From allworldwars.com

No text descriptions, drawings or paintings wouldn’t be able to surpass realism of Fenton’s photo of the besieged Sebastopol; the main allies ports at Kamiesh and Balaclava; mortar batteries, field trains, camps and every day camp life; portraits of legendary allies leaders: Lord Raglan, Lord George Page, General Pennefather, Sir John Brown, Sir Colin Campbell, commander of the “Thin Red Line”; French Maréchal Pélissier, General Bosquet, “Little Nephew of the Great Uncle” Prince Napoleon; Turkish Ismail Pacha and Omar Pacha; officers of the Guards regiments, colorful highlanders and zouaves, sergeants, soldiers, orderlies, reverends, Royal commissioners, railway engineers, camp followers, laborers, fellow artists, war correspondents and civilian travelers. With the end of the Crimean War, quite modest public interest in Fenton's photos quickly faded away; in 1862 he left photography for good, dying several years later, financially broken and almost forgotten. In our days, however, historians unanimously recognize Fenton's remarkable accomplishments not only for his keen artistic eye and seminal role in establish photography as an artistic endeavor, but also honor him as one of the first professional war photographers.
(The Apricity forums at theapricity.com)

Pasha and Bayadère
From photoradar.com

A rare 19th century print, above, by Roger Fenton will remain in Britain after Bradford's National Media Museum intervened to prevent it from export. With help from the Art Fund, the NMM reached its fundraising goal of £108,506 to keep the image, regarded as one of Fenton's finest works, from being sold to overseas buyers.
The image, called Pasha and Bayadère, dates from 1858 and features Roger Fenton himself among the subjects. In the image, a dancing girl (the bayadère) performs for a high ranking official (the pasha, played by Roger Fenton), who watches her intently. Seated on the floor on the left hand side of the Pasha, a musician (played by the English landscape painter Frank Dillon) plays a stringed instrument. Keen viewers will note the string tied to the ceiling, used to keep the pasha's hands fixed above her head during the long exposure.
The picture is from a series of 50 Orientalist photographs that Fenton made following his expedition during the Crimean War and has been passed down directly from Frank Dillon's descendants to the image's previous owners.
Pasha and Bayadère was originally due to be sold abroad until the NMM stepped in. On issuing a temporary export bar, Lord Inglewood, Chairman of the Reviewing Committee, said: “Photography is sometimes undervalued in this country, but Pasha and Bayadère demonstrates how the best photographs can hold their own aesthetically against other art forms. As well as being a remarkable image, the work is also important for the study of the history of photography. The fact that the Getty Museum chose to make their own version of this image the subject of a scholarly monograph shows just how highly Fenton’s work is regarded outside the UK.”
The photograph is one of only two examples of this image, the other being in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The Getty’s version is uncropped and believed to be a proof.
(Jeff Meyer at photoradar.com)

Note: I found these images (above) from all over the web. If you own a photo’s copyright and think this page violates Fair Use, please contact me.

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