Friday, August 8, 2014

Roger Fenton

Roger Fenton, 1852

Roger Fenton was a British photographer born on March 28, 1819, in Crimble Hall, Lancashire, England. Fenton trained as a painter in London and Paris before pursuing photography. He founded the Photographic Society in London and gained notoriety taking pictures of the British monarchy. In 1852, Fenton took what many believe were the first photographs of Russia and the Kremlin. Fenton was best known for his 1855 documentation of the ravages of the war in Crimea.

Fenton dressed as a Zouave (1855, see also here)

Despite summer high temperatures, breaking several ribs in a fall, suffering from cholera and also becoming depressed at the carnage he witnessed at Sebastopol, in all Fenton managed to make over 350 usable large format negatives. An exhibition of 312 prints was soon on show in London and at various places across the nation in the months that followed. Fenton also showed them to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and also to Emperor Napoleon III in Paris. Nevertheless, sales were not as good as expected.

Roger Fenton

Undaunted by the lack of commercial success for his Crimean photographs, Fenton remained driven with great energy to perfect his art and to record meaningful and artistic images. He travelled widely over Britain to record landscapes and still life images, but as time moved on, photography was becoming more accessible. Many, with sufficient knowledge and also the hunger to develop business, sought to profit from selling quick portraits to common people.

In 1862 the organizing committee for the International Exhibition in London announced its plans to place photography, not with the other fine arts as had been done in the exhibition five years earlier, but in the section reserved for machinery, tools and instruments - photography was considered a craft, for tradesmen. For Fenton and many of his colleagues, this was conclusive proof of photography's diminished status. In 1863 he sold his equipment and returned to the law as a barrister on the Northern Circuit.

Roger Fenton, by Hugh Welch Diamond, photogalvanograph, 1868 (National Portrait Gallery)

He died 8 August 1869 at his home in Potter's Bar, Hertfordshire after a week-long illness - he was only 50 yrs old. His wife died in 1886. Their graves were destroyed in 1969 when the Potter's Bar church where they were buried was deconsecrated and demolished (source: Wikipedia).

next episode: Granada

4 comments:

  1. Very interesting, he fitted a lot in to his (to us) relatively short life.
    I hate reading where churches and ground have been demolished and graves destroyed, turned into car parks or whatever.

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  2. That is really horrible about their graves being destroyed!

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  3. What on earth were the Exhibition committee thinking?

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  4. Great posting, Rob, really interesting. Always a pleasure reading these type of posts.

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