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Mr. Fenton’s Photographic Van Fenton, Roger  (British, 1819-1869)

This wood engraving from a photograph of Roger Fenton’s van appeared in the November 10,1855 issue of The Illustrated London News. Fenton embarked [to Crimea] on February 20, 1855 taking with him the photographic van and two assistants, a driver and Marcus Sparling, a former corporal, inventor of an ingenious camera and author of a comprehensive textbook on photography (1856). Both assistants and the photographic van had already been employed by Fenton the previous autumn on a photographic tour in Yorkshire. Originally a wine-merchant’s vehicle, Fenton had it converted into a caravan fitted up for living, cooking, sleeping, and darkroom work. His immense quantity of equipment filled no fewer than 36 large cases, and included five cameras of various sizes, a stock of about 700 glass plates, chests of chemicals, a tent, carpenters’ tools, cooking utensils, tinned food, harness for three horses, and many other items… To avoid the necessity of explaining the purpose of the carriage, the words ‘Photographic Van were painted on it in large letters, with the result that crowds of all ranks flocked around. ‘Everybody rendezvous of all the colonels and captains in the army; everybody drops in every day and I can scarcely get time to work for questions. [1] Wood engraving by Marcus Goodall based on a photograph by Fenton. Marcus Sparling is shown driving the van.

Reproduced / Exhibited

Fenton, Roger, Helmut Gernsheim, and Alison Gernsheim. Roger Fenton, Photographer of the Crimean War: His Photographs and His Letters from the Crimea. , 1973. pl. 14

Gordon, Sophie and Louise Pearson. Shadows of War: Roger Fenton’s Photographs of the Crimea, 1855. , 2017. Fig. 65.

Rosenblum, Naomi. A World History of Photography. New York: Abbeville Press, 2008. no. 200.

Mauro, Alessandra. Photoshow: Landmark Exhibitions That Defined the History of Photography. , 2014. p. 51 (vintage)

Gernsheim, Helmut. The Rise of Photography, 1850-1880: The Age of Collodion. London: Thames and Hudson, 1989. p/94


[1] Gernsheim, Helmut. The Rise of Photography, 1850-1880: The Age of Collodion. London: Thames and Hudson, 1989. p 93.

Josef Maria Eder, Geschicte der Photographie, Verlag von Wilhelm Knapp, 1932, pg 499

Jacobson, Ken, Odalisques & Arabesques: Orientalist Photography 1839-1925, Quaritch, London, 2007, fig 1-8

Collection M + M Auer, une histoire de la photographie, Editions m+m, Hermance, 2004, fig pg 222

Sophie Gordon, Shadows of War, Royal Collection Trust, London, 2017, pg 137

All The Mighty World, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2004, pg 24