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.
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