CON­FLICT PHOTOGRAPH­Y

Roger Fen­ton pro­duced among the first ma­jor photo records of a war zone

History of War - - CONTENTS -

As well as the med­i­cal, tech­ni­cal and strate­gic in­no­va­tions emerg­ing on 19th cen­tury bat­tle­fields, a new art form was also chang­ing the way war was de­picted to the out­side world. In pre­vi­ous cen­turies, bat­tle­fields were ex­clu­sively dis­played in paint­ings, of­ten dra­matic and heroic in con­tent, pre­sent­ing a grand and mostly ro­man­ti­cised ver­sion of war. With the great ad­vances of cam­era tech­nol­ogy dur­ing the 1800s, there was a new op­por­tu­nity to cap­ture more re­al­is­tic images of war. A law grad­u­ate with a love of art, Roger Fen­ton be­came at­tracted by the po­ten­tial of photograph­y, and took a cam­era with him on a trip to Rus­sia in 1852, pho­tograph­ing bridges, ar­chi­tec­ture and land­scapes. Af­ter the out­break of the Crimean War, Fen­ton re­ceived a com­mis­sion to doc­u­ment the war in pho­to­graphs from print­maker Thomas Agnew & Sons. The re­sult was one of the first ex­ten­sive pho­to­graphic records of war. Fen­ton spent four months in Crimea, cap­tur­ing 360 images of the of­fi­cers, men and land­scapes of the con­flict. Though not fi­nan­cially suc­cess­ful, the series of images pro­vide an in­valu­able in­sight into the Crimean War.

“FEN­TON SPENT FOUR MONTHS IN CRIMEA, CAP­TUR­ING 360 IMAGES OF THE OF­FI­CERS, MEN AND LAND­SCAPES OF THE CON­FLICT”

Ti­tled ‘The Val­ley of the Shadow of Death’, this de­picts a can­non shot-strewn sec­tion of the road to Sevestopol. Per­haps one of the most iconic images from the war, there has long been de­bate over whether Fen­ton ma­nip­u­lated the scene, in par­tic­u­lar the can­non balls, in or­der to pro­vide a more dra­matic ef­fect. None­the­less the pho­to­graph re­mains a pow­er­ful de­pic­tion of war’s bru­tal­ity, and for many is rem­i­nis­cent of the fate­ful charge of the Light Brigade dur­ing the Bat­tle of Bala­clava.

Fen­ton pro­duced sev­eral por­traits of him­self, dressed in the uni­forms of var­i­ous iconic units and line in­fantry, here play­ing the part of a French zouave sol­dier.

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