Roger Fenton was a prominent British photographer. He is widely regarded as the first war photographer in the world. His father and grandfather were wealthy and influential people. His father was a famous politician whereas his grandfather was a banker as well as a business person. “Fenton studied painting and then law” (Roger Fenton). He was graduated in 1840 from University College, London. Fenton married Grace Elizabeth Maynard in 1843. “In 1853, he was appointed as the official photographer of the Crimean War, taking 360 photographs in all. Although his pictures only depicted the “acceptable” parts of the conflict, they were the first to capture the mundane aspects of warfare” (Roger Fenton Biography). He was died on August 8, 1869. This paper analyses the pictures taken by Roger Fenton with respect to subject matter, composition, framing, and intent.
Even though Roger Fenton has taken more than 360 war photographs, he deliberately avoided the pictures of dead, injured or mutilated soldiers. At the same time, he was successful in portraying or revealing the atrocities of war with the help of the photographed landscapes at or near the war front. Crimean War between Britain and Russia was portrayed beautifully by Roger Fenton. One of the most famous war photographs taken during Crimean War by Fenton is known as the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
(Valley of the Shadow of Death)
British soldiers faced lot of humiliating defeats in the place shown in the above photograph. Even though, dead bodies or injured people are not visible in this picture, the viewers will get a haunting experience after watching this picture. “Borrowing from the Twenty-third Psalm of the Bible, the Valley of Death was named by British soldiers who came under constant shelling there” (Valley of the Shadow of Death). Valley of the Shadow of Death is considered to be the master piece of Roger Fenton. It is still considered as an important piece of war photography. The theme of this picture is the view of a cannonball-strewn road near Sevastopol. This photograph appears to be a simple at the first look. however close analysis of this picture may present a haunting experience to the viewers. “The image offers a kind of visual equivalent to Tennysons poem The Charge of the Light Brigade. In it, the poet pays tribute to the six hundred British cavalrymen who died in this same valley on 25 October 1854” (Roger Fenton: The Valley of the Shadow of Death)
Fenton believed that the perceptive eye of the camera could record “all the mighty world.” “Always exploring new subjects and testing the limits of his practice, Fenton photographed Britains ruined abbeys and stately homes, Russian architecture, romantic landscapes, the collections of the British Museum, the Crimean War, the royal family, as well as “Orientalist scenes” and still lives (All the mighty world)
To conclude, Roger Fenton was a photographer who tried to educate the world regarding the atrocities of war with the help of war photographs. Even though he rarely photographed the pictures of dead or wounded soldiers, his war photographs speak volumes about the destructive elements of wars.
“All The Mighty World”. 2012. Web. 31 July 2012.
“Roger Fenton Biography”. 2012. Web. 31 July 2012.
“Roger Fenton”. Web. 31 July 2012.
“Roger Fenton: The Valley of the Shadow of Death”. Web. 31 July 2012.
“Valley of the Shadow of Death”. Web. 31 July 2012.