British photographic history

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On the Royal Collection Trust’s website concerning Robertson/Beato's Crimean War image entitled The Valley of the Shadow of Death (https://www.rct.uk/the-valley-of-the-shadow-of-death) (see right), there is the following description: -

Neither Robertson’s photograph nor Simpson’s lithograph show the same location as Fenton’s image, despite all three works having the same title. The full phrase from Psalm 23 from which the title comes is ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil’. It is reported that the British soldiers gave the ravine its name. The emotive pull of Fenton’s composition is all the more apparent when compared with Robertson’s photograph and Simpson’s lithograph, although the round shot in Simpson’s work links it visually to Fenton’s photograph.

Unfortunately, the RCT showed William Simpson’s watercolour entitled Charge of the Light Cavalry Brigade, 25th October 1854, which took place in Tennyson’s ‘Valley of Death’, to illustrate the ‘Valley of the Shadow of Death’ and not Simpson’s watercolour entitled Valley of the Shadow of Death - Caves in the Woronzoff Road, behind the Twenty-one Gun Battery, which shows round shot on the road. I hope that the webmaster at RCT can correct this error.

While on the subject and perhaps to add to the confusion, Robertson/Beato also took another photograph entitled, as far as I can tell, The Valley of the Shadow of Death, Woronzoff Road. This is the same ravine as the one shown on the left in The Valley of the Shadow of Death (see above right). It is reproduced below and is remarkable similar in aspect to Simpson’s watercolour entitled Valley of the Shadow of Death - Caves in the Woronzoff Road, behind the Twenty-one Gun Battery. Perhaps this photograph can also be brought into a new RCT discussion.

For those interested, I devoted a chapter in The Crimean War: Then and Now to the differences in location of Fenton’s and Robertson/Beato’s ‘Valley of the Shadow of Death’ images. All the above art works mentioned above are discussed and illustrated in the book.

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