Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history
I noticed this write-up for the Royal Collection Trust's exhibition of Roger Fenton's work on the following website: https://www.rct.uk/collection/themes/exhibitions/roger-fentons-phot...
Published in contemporary newspaper reports, Fenton's photographs showed the impact of war to the general public for the first time. Through his often subtle and poetic interpretations Fenton created the genre of war photography, showing his extraordinary genius in capturing the futility of war.
I may be wrong, but, as far as I am aware, Fenton's photographs were not published in contemporary newspapers because the technology was not available in the 1850s. Perhaps the RCT meant engravings of his photographs. I am not sure how many of Fenton’s photographs were reproduced in newspapers as engravings, but perhaps some reader will be able to answer that question.
I also believe that Fenton did not intend to or indeed capture the futility of war in his images taken in the Crimea. To my mind, the closest he came to showing the downside of war was photographing the graves in the Cathcart's Hill Cemetery (left).
Fenton's iconic The Valley of the Shadow of War is indeed an emotive image of war, but is it anti-war? Fenton himself dressed in a Zouave's uniform (see above) and carried a rifle for a portrait in his hut at Balaklava, which was probably taken by his assistant Marcus Sparling. Was that the action of a man who was subtly and poetically trying to capture the futility of war?
I trust that this will stimulate some discussion..
David R Jones
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