Cairo to Con­stantino­ple: Early Pho­to­graphs of the Mid­dle East

The Queen’s Gallery, Buck­ing­ham Palace 7 Novem­ber 2014 - 22 Fe­bru­ary 2015

Timeless Travels Magazine - - ART ROUNDUP -

In 1862, the Prince of Wales (later King Ed­ward VII) was sent on an ed­u­ca­tional tour of the Mid­dle East, ac­com­pa­nied by the Bri­tish pho­tog­ra­pher Fran­cis Bed­ford (1815-94). An ex­hi­bi­tion at The Queen’s Gallery, Buck­ing­ham Palace, doc­u­ments this jour­ney through the work of Bed­ford, the first pho­tog­ra­pher to join a royal tour. It ex­plores the cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance Vic­to­rian Bri­tain at­tached to the re­gion, which was then as com­plex and con­tested as it re­mains to­day.

The ex­pe­di­tion was de­signed to in­crease the heir to the throne’s un­der­stand­ing of the area at a time when the Ot­toman Em­pire (nom­i­nally in con­trol of the lands through which the Prince was trav­el­ling) was dis­in­te­grat­ing and Bri­tain needed to se­cure the route to In­dia. Against this back­drop, leisure travel to the re­gion was in­creas­ing, stim­u­lated by re­cent ma­jor ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies in the Mid­dle East. The in­tro­duc­tion of steamships to Alexandria in 1840 cut jour­ney times and made the re­gion more ac­ces­si­ble for Euro­pean pil­grims and tourists. By 1867, the Bri­tish travel com­pany Thomas Cook & Son was even run­ning pack­age tours to Egypt and the Holy Land.

The Prince’s four-month tour had been planned by his par­ents, Queen Vic­to­ria and Prince Al­bert, to oc­cupy him af­ter he had fin­ished univer­sity and be­fore he was mar­ried. The tour in­cluded Egypt, Palestine and the Holy Land, Syria, Le­banon, Tur­key and Greece. The Prince met rulers, politi­cians and other no­table fig­ures, and trav­elled in a man­ner unas­so­ci­ated with roy­alty, by horse and camp­ing out in tents. The art of pho­tog­ra­phy had been in­tro­duced to the public in 1839 and Bed­ford’s skill as a land­scape pho­tog­ra­pher had al­ready se­cured two royal com­mis­sions. The suc­cess of those early com­mis­sions led to his ap­point­ment on the royal tour.

Gar­den of Geth­se­mane, Jerusalem, 2 April 1862

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