Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history
I have recently been comparing collections holding Roger Fenton’s Crimean war images and have discovered that the titles of some portraits in the Library of Congress (LOC) in Washington are different to the same images in the Royal Collection Trust (RCT). The portrait entitled Colonel Goodlake at the LOC is entitled Lieutenant Colonel Chapman C.B., Royal Engineers at the RCT. Also, the LOC’s Lieutenant Colonel Chapman, C.B., Royal Engineers is entitled Major Chapman at the RCT. In addition, the LOC’s Major Chapman, 20th Regiment is entitled Major Goodlake, Coldstream Guards at the RCT. I believe that the RCT titles are correct and would like to suggest that the LOC investigate the matter and clarify the situation.
Incorrectly labelled photographs cause mistakes to be made by authors using contemporary pictures in publications on the Crimean War. An example is the book entitled Images of War, The Crimean War, which is published by Pen and Sword. The authors have used the LOC titles in the captions of two of the portraits mentioned above.
I have usually notified collections when I have found conflicting or incorrect titles to Crimean War pictures in the past. Some thank me for my efforts, but others do not reply. I have not followed up whether the changes I suggested to most of the collections were made or not. Today, I quickly went through Fenton’s images in the John Paul Getty Museum in the USA and found all but one were correctly named. However, the title of Cavalry Camp looking towards Kadikoi (84.XM.1028.26) was incorrect as it shows a picture that is correctly entitled as View of the Lines of Balaklava from Guard’s Hill, Canrobert’s Hill in the distance at the LOC and RCT. There were also some typing errors, such as ‘Captain Porial’ instead of ‘Captain Portal’.
I also recently found that two of Fenton’s Crimean portraits in the RCT showing the same army officer with the same horse at the same location at roughly the same time had two different names in the images' titles. The first (RCIN 2500272) was entitled Major Hussey Fane Keane, who was described as being in the Royal Engineers (see above right). This information is correct. However, the second (RCIN 2500348) showing the same man was entitled Major Giles Keane, who was described as being in 86th Foot (see below left). This information is incorrect. There was a Major Giles Keane in the 86th Foot at the time, but the regiment never fought in the Crimea being stationed in India. I haven’t the slightest idea how the RCT came by this name for the portrait. Again, more care needs to be taken by collections in making sure their accessions have the correct names and descriptions.
Ideally, institutes holding historical photographs should interact with each other to ensure that titles of images conform between collections, but I suppose a lack of funds, time and perhaps motivation prevents this from happening. I should also mention here that, as a specialist in Crimean photography with a first-hand knowledge of the topography of Sevastopol and its environs, I approached the head of a well-known collection and offered to improve the descriptions of its Crimean War photographs. This offer was declined even though I was willing to do the job for the sake of posterity at no cost to the collection. I am now in coronavirus lockdown and busy writing articles for publication in the RPS’s The PhotoHistorian and the CWRS’s The War Correspondent so that the information I have on what is seen in Crimean War images does not disappear when I do.
Add a Comment
I'm with you, David, in terms of using original descriptions. Alternatives encourage some into reading more into the photograph than was actually intended (although Agnew wasn't slow in that respect - hence e.g. the 'Valley of Death' description).
I shall report back when I've heard from the various institutions. In the meantime, thanks very much for your help.
David, I am quite confident that the titles I have suggested for the two 'Doherty and his men' photographs taken by Roger Fenton are correct, but this is difficult to confirm absolutely. I am not aware of how this could be done other than being at the actually exhibitions! Some may argue that the title of the 187 exhibit in Agnew's 1856 catalogue supersedes the title in Agnew's1855 catalogue, but I have gone for the original.
I have been using Agnew's 1855 catalogue (published in Sophie Gordon's book entitled Shadows of War) as a source for the titles of the original London exhibits. Your link shows Agnew's 1856 catalogue, which included the extra images, such as 112*, inserted. I have not seen this before and for the additional exhibits relied on : -
I know of no single source with the dates of when Fenton took his Crimean photographs. The dates of some can be worked out from his letters as you know. Fanny Duberly's book gives the date of when her and her husband's photograph was taken. William Romaine's letters give the correct date for 'Council of War'. Other writers may give clues as to when certain others were taken but it would be arduous job to find them.
Thanks for that, much appreciated. The Agnew catalogue of 1856 (online at:
https://www.rct.uk/collection/search#/10/collection/1083377-b/exhib...) confirms the 2 items numbered as 112* and 187. Would there be any means of verifying which photograph is which (although what you say makes much sense) and the title change of 187 for the tour ? An original copy of the series sold by Agnew would be useful, rather than relying on a later source ! The Morning Advertiser of 6th November 1855 confirms the addition in the London exhibition at 'Pall Mall East" of 112*, with the title you quote, among a number of others.
Further, is there any record of when Fenton took particular photographs ? I have read his letters and there are clues to some of the photographs but nothing definitive.
The title of the photograph of Colonel Doherty and his men in Fenton's first exhibition in London in 1855 was Colonel Doherty and Officers of the 13th Light Dragoons. This was Exhibit No. 187. In the later UK tour exhibition of 1855-56, Exhibit No. 187 was called Officers of the 13th Light Dragoons, enumerated from the left, Lieutenants Michael and Gardner, Captain Jervis (sitting), Colonel Doherty, Captain Chamberlayne (sitting), Veterinary Surgeon Towers, and Major Jenyns. Also in this later exhibition, there was another similar photograph entitled Colonel Doherty, Officers and Men of the 13th Light Dragoons. This was Exhibit 112*. The asterisk indicates it was added for the tour exhibition between Exhibit Nos. 112 and 113.
From the men's names and positions in the title of Exhibit No. 187 in the tour exhibition, this picture would most likely be the same image as Exhibit No.187 in the London exhibition i.e. Colonel Doherty and Officers of the 13th Light Dragoons.
On this basis, I would suggest/propose that the picture with Colonel Doherty fifth from the left should be called Colonel Doherty and Officers of the 13th Light Dragoons and the other one with Colonel Doherty in the centre of the group should be called Colonel Doherty, Officers and Men of the 13th Light Dragoons.
The titles that indicate that the pictures are of the 13th Light Dragoon survivors of the 'Charge of the Light Brigade' taken the day after this famous event are, as you have deduced, completely erroneous.
I hope this helps.
Just to add that LOC has the same copy as what I describe as the second NAM photograph but uses the same title as the 1855 exhibition. The Harry Ransom Center TX holds the Gernsheim collection including a photograph which it describes in shortened form as 'Col.Doherty. Officers and Men.13th Light Dragoons' but I can't tell which photograph they hold.
Does anyone know of the original description of the RCT photograph (NAM number 1), if it was catalogued at all ? Is the LOC/NAM 2 photograph the original that appeared in the 1855 exhibition and subsequent catalogues ?
My current research is focussed on another of Fenton's Crimea photographs. This is number 112* which was one of the additions to the exhibition in November 1855 and entitled "Colonel Doherty, Officers and Men of the 13th Light Dragoons". The RCT chooses to describe it as "Colonel Doherty and the Officers of the 13th Light Dragoons". The National Army Museum appears to possess a copy under the title "Survivors of the 13th Regiment of Light Dragoons after the Battle of Balaklava, 1854" - and a second, slightly different photograph of the same subject matter, under the same title as that in the original exhibition. Unfortunately, the RCT photograph is the same as the first NAM photograph ! To add to the confusion, I have seen the photograph also described as long ago as the 1970s as "The Remnants of the 13th Light Dragoons on the morning after the Charge" and "The Remnant of the 13th Light Dragoons - taken in camp on the morning after the Charge". Given that Fenton didn't get to the Crimea until 1855 , the photograph was clearly not taken on the morning after the Charge (25th October) - I have seen it argued that he had the survivors of the Charge line up in the photograph but Colonel Doherty didn't take part in the Charge as was the case in respect of some of the others in the line-up who have been identified. In short, it looks as though later authors and curators have attempted to add a gloss in order to improve the emotional tug of the original. I am in the process of contacting these organisations to understand why they have chosen to describe items as they have.
David, this is fascinating, solid research. Thank you.
I have a recently acquired Fenton Crimean photo, and I have a big question about the printing and labelling,
I'm finding it difficult to find online information about how these were published.
Will post soon,
Thanks, David ... and no, I didn't know about Fanny Duberly, so thank you for that. As you may know, one of Herbert Ponting's Antarctic subjects, Edward Wilson, is also buried there, so a nice closing of the circle! Thanks also for the confirmation on the Duke of York point, that was my preference too. I do sympathise as it took me a while to persuade people that a photograph of Ponting which had been taken in Spitsbergen was not taken in the Antarctic! All the best with your quest, Anne
One thing I forgot to address in my last message was that fact raised by Anne that often photographs have different titles, but both are correct. I appreciate this. For instance, many of Roger Fenton's images have a slightly different title in the RCT compared to Agnew's catalogue of the Fenton exhibition mentioned below. However, in the examples of different titles for the same photograph in the collections of the LOC and RCT given in my original post, one title is certainly incorrect. I have sufficient knowledge of Crimean War photographs and the Crimean terrain where they were taken to recognise when a mistake has been made. For instance, the Getty image Cavalry Camp looking towards Kadikoi (84.XM.1028.26) does not show the cavalry camp nor does it look towards Kadikoi. They are not in view in the photograph. The image is correctly entitled View of the Lines of Balaklava from Guard’s Hill, Canrobert’s Hill in the distance because that is what it shows. The tents in the foreground belong to the camp of a Guards regiment on Guard's Hill and Canrobert's Hill is visible in the distance. The defence lines of Balaklava are faintly seen in the valley below. It is only possible to spot these mistakes if you know the area extremely well.
I thank everyone for their comments so far. It is an interesting topic.
I think part of the problem may be that some curators of photographic collections perceive the accessions to be their own private property and resent intrusions by others into their domain. There is also the question of a possible 'loss of face' to their superiors if they have to make corrections suggested by ‘outsiders’. This is a great shame when it happens as it stops titles being corrected and any new information being incorporated into descriptions of historical photographs for purely selfish reasons.
I was not aware that some original prints may have had the wrong title on their reverse. I had always assumed that ‘mix-ups’ had been made by someone not concentrating when copying information on to websites. I would think that these wrong handwritten titles could not have been written by the actual photographer.
As for the suggestion that Major Chapman was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel Chapman soon after he was photographed as being a possible an explanation for the title difference between LOC and RCT, this is not so in this case. Historical records indicate that Major Stephen Remnant Chapman was in the 20th Regiment (not the 28th as in Agnew’s catalogue of Fenton’s works exhibited in London in 1855) and Lieutenant Colonel Edward Chapman was in the Royal Engineers. Although both were well-bearded, their photographs show that they were not the same person.
I think Anne in your example you call him Duke of York (later King George VI). By-the-way, did you know that Mrs Fanny Duberly, the famous Crimean War commemtator, is buried with her husband Henry of the 8th Hussars at St Peter’s in Leckhampton?
I will contact Micah at the LOC independently about his queries.
© 2023 Created by Michael Pritchard. Powered by
You need to be a member of British photographic history to add comments!
Join British photographic history