British photographic history

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Quest for help regarding the photographer Antonio Beato

Hello, my name is Carolina and I am working on a dissertation regarding the photographer Antonio Beato in the Aberystwyth University..

My research is on a few of his photographs to prove why he is an important, underrated photographer, having done albumen prints of Egypt in 1860 as my primary source.

I was wondering, if he has a distinguished style compared to other photograhers of his time on the same subject one one part and on the other if he has met important figures that might have influenced his work  as well as maybe some elements that I am not aware of, that would be interesting for the discussion.

Many thanks,

Carolina

ps: and of course, credit will be given in my dissertation when due.

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Hi Carolina,

In the biography section of Ken Jacobson's book "Odalisques and Arabesques-Orientalist Photography 1839-1925." (Bernard Quaritch, 2007.) there is an entry on Antonio Beato that might prove helpful to your research. Perhaps you already know of this source. Ken points out (and shows examples) how his signature on his photographs changed over the years and how this corresponds to the quality of his photographs.

I'd like to offer an opinion about this photographer, if I may. I believe that one of the reasons he's underrated is the quality of most of his photographs that are found in period albums. Not the artistic quality, but the quality of the actual prints, which can greatly affect how his output is viewed today.  Beato was in business for a long time, having a studio in Luxor for over 30 years. It's quite obvious to see the "deterioration" in quality of a photo taken in the 1860's and printed by the photographer himself during that decade compared with an inexpensively purchased copy print 20 years later. By copy print I mean that it was not uncommon for unscrupulous persons to take an existing photograph, re-shoot it to create their own negative, and then print it for sale. (All the while leaving Beato's signature.) Tourism to Egypt boomed in the last quarter of the nineteenth century with thousands of tourists eager to bring home photographic mementos, and this became a very lucrative trade. Tourists were offered photographs to purchase every where they went, whether stepping into an actual studio (such as Beato's), at tobacco and stationary shops, at the ruins themselves and even on board the ships that plied the Nile from one site to another.

To be clear though, there's no doubt that Beato himself contributed to the fall in quality of his output, also cashing in on the great demand for photographs, and hastily printing from negatives that had seen better days. But if you look at his early work that contains his early signature, and that were most likely printed by the photographer himself when in full command of his talents and his business, there's a case to be made for his importance in the field. I'm attaching two photographs (albumen silver from glass plate negatives) in my possession to use as examples. They both measure 10 1/4"h x 14 1/4"w, which in itself is somewhat of a rarity, the vast majority of traveler's albums containing the more standard size of 8 x 10", or variations thereof. 

Kind regards,

John

Dear John Minichiello,

Sorry for the late reply but thank you very much for this information, it is very helpful and I am looking forward to reading the source you shared with me. Your comment gave me new ideas of research. Also thank you for the images, I really appreciate them.

Kind regards,

Carolina

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