With its debut in 1842, The Illustrated London News became the world’s first fully illustrated weekly newspaper, marking a revolution in journalism and news reporting. The publication presented a vivid picture of British and world events “ including news of war, disaster, ceremonies, the arts and science “ with coverage in the first issue ranging from the Great Fire of Hamburg to Queen Victoria’s fancy dress ball at Buckingham Palace…When the Crimean War broke out in September 1853 Herbert Ingram was more than ready for action. He dispatched six war artists, O. W. Brierly, J. W. Carmichael, J. A. Crowe, E. A. Goodall, G. H. Thomas, and Constantin Guys, to the front; for good measure he also published engravings of photographs taken by Roger Fenton, the world’s first war photographer. The artists became the first correspondents to accompany an army at war and send back reports. For three years readers were able to follow the Siege of Sevastopol, the assaults on the Redan and the Malakoff, and the battles of Balaclava and Inkerman in drawings and photographs. War had never been reported in such depth.
Fenton’s recordings of the Crimean War are considered one of the earliest war images in the history of photography. The recordings were converted into woodcuts and printed in newspapers such as the Illustrated London News. Contrary to the expectations, however, the recordings do not represent a battle on the battlefield. The long exposure time and the large, difficult to transport equipment made the work more difficult. For these reasons, mainly administrative and military events, British officers and their troops are depicted in everyday scenes from the camp. Simple soldiers were only regarded by Fenton as marginal figures, which is why he mostly photographed officers (Keller 2001, p. 134). A large part of the recordings are therefore also made. Known are some 360 shots of Fenton’s war, which finally make him famous.
Roger Fenton (1819-1869), who was born in Crimble Hall near Heywood / GB, studied mathematics, Greek, and Latin before he began his jurisprudence in London. He developed a great interest in the painting, which brought him to Paris to learn the calotypy procedure. In 1853 he founded the Royal Photographic Society together with other British photographers. Starting from 1854 he laid down his work as a lawyer and devoted himself fully to the photography. He is hired as a popular portrait photographer and even by the English royal family for orders. But his interest is mainly in architecture and landscape photography, as was also the case with his French colleagues, such as Gustave Le Gray, who originally came from painting. In 1862 he finished his photographic work and had his complete equipment auctioned. Back in London returned to his professional activity as a lawyer. He died in 1869 at the age of fifty years after a long illness.
Keller, Ulrich. The Ultimate Spectacle. A Visual History of the Crimean War. Amsterdam, 2001.
Gordon, Sophie. Roger Fenton. Julia Margaret Cameron. Early British Photographs from the Royal Collection. London, 2010.
Gernsheim, Helmut. The Rise of Photography, 1850-1880: The Age of Collodion. London: Thames and Hudson, 1989. p 92