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June 26, 2017

The Very Earliest War Photography: Rare and Amazing Photographs of Crimean War by Roger Fenton, 1855

The Crimean War (1853-1856) stemmed from Russia’s threat to multiple European interests with its pressure of Turkey. After demanding Russian evacuation of the Danubian Principalities, British and French forces laid siege to the city of Sevastopol in 1854. The campaign lasted for a full year, with the Battle of Balaclava and its “Charge of the Light Brigade” among its famous skirmishes. Facing mounting losses and increased resistance from Austria, Russia agreed to the terms of the 1856 Treaty of Paris. Remembered in part for Florence Nightingale’s work for the wounded, the Crimean War reshaped Europe’s power structure.

Roger Fenton's Crimean War photo series is the first historic attempt to portray war campaign with the help of new magic photo media, then still in its infancy. Sent as a replacement for the Richard Nicklin, a civilian photographer, who was lost at sea, along with his assistants, photographs, and equipment, when their ship sank during the hurricane that stuck the harbor at Balaklava on November 14, 1854.

Fenton spend March-June 1855 in Crimea as an official campaign photographer, payed by the British government, recording participants and landscapes for posterity. These records never managed to capture battles, explosions, devastations, wounds, blood and tears, partly due to the limitations of photographic techniques of the period, but also because of official wish to glamorize the war and shift public attention away from government and military mismanagement, for which Crimean campaign became infamously known.

With the end of the Crimean War, quite modest public interest in Fenton's photos quickly faded away, in 1862 he left photography for good, dying several years later, financially broken and almost forgotten. In our days, however, historians unanimously recognize Fenton's remarkable accomplishments not only for his keen artistic eye and seminal role in establish photography as an artistic endeavor, but also honor him as one of the first professional war photographers.

The valley of the shadow of death. Dirt road in ravine scattered with cannonballs. One of the most famous photos of the Crimean campaign.

Captain Bathurst, Grenadier Guards.

Cornet Henry John Wilkin, 11th Hussars.

Field train, horse artillery. Horse team pulling a gun carriage.

Two officers of the 47th Regiment.

Major Adolphus Burton & officers of the 5th Dragoon Guards.

Vivandière. French cantinière wearing Zouave regiment dress.

The tombs of the generals on Cathcart's Hill: a man standing at the grave of Brigadier General Thomas Leigh Goldie, who was killed in action at the Battle of Inkerman.

Lieutenant General Sir John L. Pennefather & orderly in uniform of 4th Light Dragoons.

Captain Bernard, 5th Dragoon Guards, seated on a horse with "V DG" on bags.

Officers of the 90th Regiment of Foot (Perthshire Volunteers) Light Infantry.

Captain Lord Balgonie, Grenadier Guards.

Captain Cuninghame, 42nd Royal Highland Regiment.

Railway officials, messrs. Swan, Cadell, Middleton, Howse, & Kellock.

Colonel Doherty, officers & men of the 13th Light Dragoons, including Colonel Doherty, Cornet Danzil Chamberlayne, Captain Jenyns, and veterinary-surgeon Thomas Towers.

Ismail Pacha (General Kmety) on horseback, with three attendants.

Nubian servants & horses.

Lieutenant Colonel Seymour, Fusilier Guards.

Lieutenant General Sir George Brown G.C.B. & officers of his Light Division staff Major Hallewell, Colonel Brownrigg, orderly, Colonel Airey, Captain Pearson, Captain Markham, Captain Ponsonby.

Captain Walker, 30th Regiment, reading general orders.

General Pierre Bosquet giving orders to his staff.

Lieutenant Colonel William Munro & officers of the 39th Regiment.

Group of Tatars labourers at work repairing roadway in Balaklava in front of the Store of 14th Regiment.

The artist's van. Marcus Sparling, seated on Roger Fenton's photographic van.

Captain King, horse artillery.

Major General Sir George Buller, K.C.B.

General Cissé, with officers & soldiers of General Bosquet's Division, a zouave stands at the far left.

The sanitary commission. Dr. John Sutherland is sitting on table, facing right, and Robert Rawlinson, sitting on chair.

Major General Sir R. Dacres, Captain Hamley & Colonel Adye.

Zouaves & soldiers of the line.

Major Woodford, Rifle Brigade.

Group of the 47th Regiment in winter dress, ready for the trenches.

Colonel Wood & Major Stuart Wortley on the staff of Sir Richard England.

Major General James B. Estcourt, Adj.-Gen. to the British forces in the Crimea.

Officers of the 88th Regiment.

Officers of the 71st Highlanders Regiment with dog.

Council of War held at Lord Raglan's Head Quarters, the morning of the successful attack on the Mamelon. Lord Raglan, Maréchal Pélissier, & Omar Pacha.

Distant view of Sevastopol from the front of Cathcart's Hill.

Captain Ponsonby, Captain Pearson & Captain Markham, on the staff of Sir George Brown.

Discussion between two Croats.

Two sergeants, 4th Light Dragoons.

Officers, some with telescopes, on the look-out at Cathcart's Hill.

Quartermaster Hill, 4[th] Light Dragoons, the horse taken immediately after the winter season.

Lord Raglan's Head Quarters, with Lord Raglan, Marshal Pélissier, Lord Burghersh, Spahi & Aide-de-camp of Marshal Pélissier.

Captain Croker, 17th Regiment, with servant.

Lieutenant General Barnard, C.B., facing left, gesturing toward Captain Barnard, with 3 servants.

View of plateau of Sevastopol' showing rows of caissons, with tents on the plains in the background. [Kamara Heights in the distance, artillery waggons in the foreground]

Sebastopol with the Redan, Malakoff & Mamelon, principal Russian fortifications. Colonel Shadforth seated in the foreground.

The cemetery Cathcart's Hill - the Picquet House, Victoria Redoubt and the Redoubt des Anglais in the distance.

Captain Layard, aide-de-camp to Lieutenant General Pennefather, K.C.B.

British and French staff officers of the Head Quarters: 1) Colonel Vico; 2) Major the Honourable Leicester Curzon; 3) Lord Burghersh; 4) Orderly; 5) Count Revel; 6) Mr. Calvert Interpreter; 7) Colonel Poulet[t] Somerset; 8) Colonel A. Hardinge; 9) Dr. Prendergast; 10) Commander Maxse; 11) Colonel Kingcote; posed sitting and standing on steps at British(?) headquarters.

Lieutenant Yates, 11th Hussars, posed with dog, horse and groom.

Commander Maxse, seated on a rock.

Mr. Angel, postmaster.

Captain Hume on the staff of Sir John Campbell & his brother.

Piling arms.

The Provost Marshal of the Division of General Bosquet.

Officers of the 57th Regiment.

Group of Montenegrins.

Major Hallewell, day's work done.

Brigadier Garrett & officers of the 46th Regiment.

Major Henry Morris, C.B., Royal Artillery.

Group of the 71st Regiment with colour sergeant.

Artillery waggons [i.e., wagons], view looking towards Balaclava. View of artillery camp with caissons, barracks, tents, and horses.

Mounted soldier, the pocket-pistol - equipped for Balaclava.

Lieutenant General, the Honourable Sir James Yorke Scarlett, K.C.B. and Colonel Lowe.

Colonel Vico, attached to the British Head Quarters.

Colonel Lowe, [i.e., Low] 4th Light Dragoons & servant in winter dress.

Maréchal Pélissier, G.C.B.

General Cissé, chief of the staff to General Bosquet, & aide-de-camp.

Two French officers, seated, and Zouave, standing with arm resting on rifle.

Officers of the 68th Regiment.

Cossack Bay, Balaklava. A building next to which is a pile of baskets and a holding pen with horses at the landing place on the cattle pier with several ships at dock in Balaklava harbor, also bell tents at water's edge and the landscape of the hills in the background.

Captain Wilkinson, 9th Regiment.

Captain Thomas, aide-de-camp to General Bosquet.

Balaklava harbour, the cattle pier.

Captain Thomas Longworth Dames, Royal Artillery.

Group of Croats laborers posed for group portrait.

Lieutenant Sir John L. General Pennefather, C.B.

Cavalry camp, looking towards Kadikoi. View of encampment showing bell tents, huts, soldiers, and horses.

Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Burghersh, C.B.

Captain Hall, & group of the 14th near flagpole.

Major Hallewell & Captain Pearson.

Mr. Thompson of the Commissariat & attendants of Ismail Pacha, seated on a gabion, ront, surrounded by attendants of Ismail Pacha.

Colonel Airey & Major Hallewell with two attendants nearby.

Brigadier General Lord George Paget C.B.

Major Tinley, & officers of the 39th regiment.

Major General Estcourt, Adj.-Gen. Major De Morel, Captain Thompson, Lieutenant-Colonel Blane, Major Kirkland, Lieutenant-Colonel the Honour[able] W.L. Pakenham, officers of his staff.

Reverend Mr. Butler & officers of the 47th Regiment.

Group of officers, 8th Hussars.

Group of 4th Dragoon Guards.

Officers of the 89th Regiment at Cathcart's Hill, in winter dress, Captain Leslie Skynner, Lieutenant Francis Knatchbull, Captain Robert Rowland Conyers, Lieutenant John Longfield, and Captain Robert B. Hawley.

Cooking house, 8th Hussars. On the left is the side of Fenton's photographic van.

A group of Croat laborers.

Brigadier Robert Garrett.

General Bosquet on Bayard.

Camp of the 4th Dragoons, convivial party, French & English. One gioard smoking a pipe, two Zouaves, and Mrs. Rogers in front of a hut.

Balaclava looking seawards, the Commandant's house in the foreground. Balaklava looking seaward showing general view of the landscape and buildings with the Commandant's house in the foreground, behind which, to the right, is the ordnance wharf and the harbor with a line of ships receding to the middle distance, and in the upper left corner, the remains of the old Genoese castle perched on the hills that line the harbor.

Mr. Gammel & friends, 39th Regiment.

Major Ralph Budd, Captains John Dwyer, William Cosmo Trevor, Frederick Hammersley, John Barlow, and Angus(?) Hall, 14th Regiment.

Captaine Thomas (right) and another French officer.


Mr. Simpson, the artist.

The old Genoese Castle at Balaklava, from above the castle pier.

Commander Ballan, officer on Bosquet's staff.

Men seated by railroad bed under construction next to Balaklava harbor. Landing place, railway stores, Balaklava, looking up the harbour. 

Ismail Pacha (Hungarian general Kmety) ordering his chibouque.

Colonel Frederick G. Shewell, C.B., commanding Hussar Brigade.

The Honourable Major Cathcart, Dep. As. Adj. General to the Light Division.

Officers & men of the 89th Regiment Captain Robert B. Hawley, Captain Leslie Skynner, Major Caledon Richard Egerton, Major William(?) Watson, Major Fred. Charles Aylmer, Captain John M. Cuppage and others standing and sitting in front of bell tent, some wearing winter dress.

Lieutenant General Sir John Campbell & Captain Hume, his aide-de-camp, the general sitting.

Mr. Angel, postmaster.

Landing place, Ordnance Wharf, Balaklava, Genoese Castle.

Zouave & officer of the Spahis.

Ismail Pacha & Mr. Thompson of the Commissariat.

Captain Graham & Captain Macleod, 42nd Regiment.

Colonel Brownrigg C.B. & the two Russian boys Alma & Inkermann.

Men of the 77th (The East Middlesex) Regiment of Foot in winter costume.

Men of the 68th (The Durham) Regiment of Foot in ordinary dress.

Cavalry camp near Balaklava.

Major Percy Archer Butler, 28th Regiment.

British private in full marching order, in front of tent, with rifle, canteen, knapsack, and other equipment.

Captain Phillips & Lieutenant Yates, 8th Hussars.

Balaklava, from Guard's Hill.

Military camp.

Quiet day in the "Mortar Battery".

Brigadier McPherson, CB., & officers of the 4th Division: Captain Clement Henry John Higham [i.e., Heigham], 17th Regiment; Captain William Henry Earle, Major of Brigade; Captain (John L. or Edward) Croker, 17th Regiment; Captain Roger Swire; Captain Philip McPherson, posed next to tent.

Lieutenant-colonel Thomas Shadforth at his hut & officers of the 57th Regiment.

Officers of the 71st Highlanders.

Camp of the 5th Dragoon Guards, looking towards Kadikoi.

Chasseur d'Afrique - officer.

Captain Lilley, field train.

Lieutenant Gayner [i.e., Gaynor], 47th Regiment.

William H. Russell, Esqr., the Times special correspondent.

The 68th Regiment, winter dress.

Dr. Marlow, 28th Regiment.

Captain Henry R.C. Godley, 28th Regiment.

Captain Brown, 4th Light Dragoons & servant, winter dress.

Two French Army Zouaves.

Henry Duberly Esqr., paymaster, 8th Hussars, standing before Mrs. Isabella Duberly, on horseback.

Viscount Kirkwall, Captain 71st Highlanders.

General Pierre Bosquet giving orders to his staff.

Brigadier-General Garrett & officers of his staff.

Lieutenant General Pennefather, & Captain Wing, Captain Layard, Captain Ellison, Colonel Wilbraham, Colonel Percy Herbert, Major Thackwell & Dr. Wood, officers of his staff.

Captain Mottram Andrews, 28th Regiment.

Group of officers of the 17th (The Leicestershire) Regiment of Foot.

Major Adolphus Burton, 5th Dragoon Guards.

Captain Charles A. Fay on General Bosquets staff.

Colonel Edward Birch Reynardson (he had the command of the Grenadier Guards at the battle of Inkermann).



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