LANDSCAPE AND ARCHITECTURE
EASY OF ACCESS, generally
immobile, and of acknowledged artistic appeal, landscape, nature,
and architecture provided congenial subjects for the first
photographers. The desire for accurate graphic transcription of
scenery of all kinds— natural and constructed—had led to the
perfection of the camera obscura in the first place, and it was
precisely because exactness was so difficult even with the aid of
this device that Talbot and others felt the need to experiment with
the chemical fixation of reflected images. Beginning with the
daguerreotype and the calotype, 19th-century scenic views evolved
along several directions. They provided souvenirs for the new
middle-class traveler, and brought the world into the homes of those
unable to make such voyages. Photographs of natural phenomena
provided botanists, explorers, geologists, and naturalists with the
opportunity to study previously undocumented specimens and
locations. And as scientific knowledge increased, as changing
conditions of life in urban centers promoted new concepts of how to
understand and represent the material world, the camera image itself
became part of the shifting relationship between traditional and
modern perceptions of nature and the built environment.
From the Renaissance up until the
middle of the 18th century, painted landscape, with few exceptions,
had been considered important mainly as a background for historical
and religious events; landscape as such occupied a low position in
the hierarchy of artistic subjects. With the relaxation of academic
art strictures and the introduction during the Romantic era of a
more sensuous depiction of nature, artists turned to a wider range
of motifs from the material world. These extended from pastoral
landscapes, seen from afar, to depictions of singular
formations—water, skies, trees, rocks, and fruits of the field. As
heirs to these evolving attitudes toward nature, photographers,
armed with a device they believed would faithfully record actuality,
approached the landscape with the conviction that the camera might
perform a dual function—that photographs might reveal form and
structure accurately and at the same time present the information in
an artistically appealing fashion.
The public appetite for scenic
views had a significant effect on early landscape photographs also.
Through most of the 18th century, oil paintings, watercolors,
engravings, and (after 1820) lithographs of topographical views had
become increasingly popular. The landscape or view photograph was
welcomed not only because it was a logical extension of this genre,
but also for its supposedly more faithful representation of
topography, historic monuments, and exotic terrain. As an example of
the overlap that came about in the wake of changing technologies,
drawings made by the American explorers Frederick Catherwood and
John L. Stephens of their findings on expeditions to the Yucatan
peninsula in 1839 and 1841 were based on unaided observation, on the
use of a camera lucida, and on daguerreotypes the two had made.
Since many views, including these, were made with publication in
mind, the camera image promoted a more accurate translation from
drawing to mechanically reproduced print, supplying the engraver or
lithographer with detailed information at a time when inexpensive
methods of transferring the photograph directly to the plate had not
yet been developed.
Truthful representation of the real
world without sentimentality presented itself as an important
objective to many 19th-century scientists and intellectuals,
including French novelist Gustave Flaubert, who held that the artist
should be "omnipotent and invisible." This position reflected one
aspect of the positivist ideas of social philosopher Auguste Comte
and others who were convinced that a scientific understanding of
material reality was the key to economic and social progress. The
camera image was regarded as a fitting visual means for just such an
impersonal representation of nature. Nevertheless, it is difficult
to determine the full extent of daguerrcotyping activities with
reference to views of nature, architecture, and monuments. Many
plates have been lost or destroyed; others, hidden away in archives
or in historical and private collections, have been surfacing in
recent years, but no overall catalogs of such images exist. From the
works most often seen, it seems apparent that the finely detailed
daguerreotype was supremely suited to recording architectural
features while somewhat less useful for pure nature. The influential
British art critic John Ruskin, who in 1845 began to make his own
daguerreotypes as well as to use those of others in preparing the
drawings for his books on architecture, praised the verisimilitude
of the daguerreotype image as "very nearly the same thing as
carrying off the palace itself."
Daguerreotype scenic views made on
both sides of the Atlantic reveal attitudes about nature and art of
which neither the photographer nor the viewer may have been aware at
the time. The stark mountains and graceless buildings in an 1840
image by Samuel Bemis of a farm scene in New Hampshire seem to
suggest the solitary and obdurate quality of the New England
country-side. Admittedly, this Boston dentist, who acquired his
photographic equipment from Daguerre's agent Gouraud, was working at
the very dawn of photography, when materials and processes were in a
state of flux. In contrast, the harmonious landscape by Alexandre
Clausel, probably made near Troves, France, in 1855, attests to not
only a firmer grasp of technique but also to a greater sensitivity
to the manner in which the traditional canons of landscape
composition were handled.
Landscape photography evolved as a
commercial enterprise with the taking of views of well-known or
extraordinary natural formations for the benefit of travelers. A
favorite site in the United States, Niagara Falls was daguerreotyped
by Southworth and Hawes in 1845, ambrotyped as well as
daguerreotyped by George Platt Babbitt in 1848, and photographed on
stereographic glass plates by the Langenheim brothers in 1855.
Albumen prints from collodion negatives of the Falls were made by
English commercial photographers John Werge and William England in
1853 and 1859 respectively, and from dry plates by George Barker. In
the Midwest, daguerreotypes of similar scenic wonders were made by
Alexander Hesler and others in larger numbers than is generally
Samuel Bemis. New Hampshire Landscape,
Daguerreotype. Collection Ken Heyman, New York.
Alexandre Clausel. Landscape, Probably Near Troyes, France, c. 1855.
Daguerreotype. International Museum of Photography at George Eastman
House, Rochester, N.Y.
The urban scene also was considered appropriate for the
daguerreotypist. Bridge and Boats on the Thames of 1851 by Baron
Jean Baptiste Louis Gros typifies the incredible amount of detail
made visible by this process, and indicates the way bodies of water
might be used to unify sky and foreground, a solution that virtually
became a formula for many landscape photographers. The drama of dark
silhouette against a lighter sky, seen in Wilhelm Halffter's image
of Berlin demonstrates another method of treating the problem
of visually unrelated rectangles of light and dark areas that the
actual land- or cityscape frequently presented; this, too, became a
commonplace of view photography Most landscape imagery was designed
for a broad market—the buyers of engraved and lithographed scenes—so
the problem of the nonduplicatable metal plate was solved by
employing artists to translate the daguerreotype into engravings,
aquatints, and lithographs. One of the first publishers of an
extensive work based on daguerreotypes, Noel Marie Paymal Lerebours
(an optical-instrument maker who had been associated with Daguerre's
endeavors), made use of daguerreotyped scenes from Europe, the Near
East, and the United States; these were either commissioned or
purchased outright as material for engravings, with figures and
fillips often added by artists. Among the daguerreotypists whose
work appeared in Lerebours's Excursions daguerriennes: Vues et
monuments les plus remarquables duglobe (Dagnerrinn Excursions: The
World's Most Remarkable Scenes and Monuments), issued between 1840
and 1843, were Frederic GoupilFesquct, Hector Horcau, Joly de
Lotebiniere, and Horace Vernet, all of whom supplied views of Egypt.
Daguerreotyping, it seems, had become indispensable both for
travelers who could not draw and artists who did not have the time
to make drawings.
Interest in unusual scenery and
structures was so strong that even though daguerreotyping in the
field was not easy, a number of other similar projects were
initiated in the early 1840s, generally by affluent individuals who
hired guides and followed safe routes. Dr. Alexander John Ellis, a
noted English philologist, was inspired by Excursions daguerriennes
to conceive of Italy Daguerreotyped, comprising views of
architecture engraved from full-plate daguerreotypes that he had
supervised or made himself in 1840-41; the project was abandoned,
although the plates still exist. The British physician Dr. George
Skene Keith and a well-to-do French amateur, Joseph Philibert
Girault de Prangey, took daguerreotypes, hoping to publish works on
Near Eastern architecture that might show details and structure in
close-ups and suggest connections between architecture and biblical
history. In Switzerland, Johann Baptist Isenring, a painter and
engraver turned daguerreotypist, and Franziska Mollinger, one of the
early women daguerreotypists, each traveled by caravan throughout
the country taking views of scenery to be engraved and published.
HECTOR HOREAU. Abu Simbel, 1840.
Aquatint. Collection Gerard-Levy, Paris.
Before giving way to the more
practicable negative-positive process, the daguerreotype achieved a
measure of additional popularity' with respect to panoramic views—
images that are much wider than they are high. It will be recalled
that panoramas (and in Paris, The Diorama) with minutely rendered
landscape detail were among the most popular entertainments of the
early 1800s in Europe and the United States.' Soon after the
announcement of the daguerreotype, photographers attempted to
capitalize on the appetite for this kind of encompassing yet
accurate visual experience. At first, series of individual
daguerreotypes arranged in contiguous order to depict a wider
prospect were popular, especially in the United States. There the
urge to document urban development occupied photographers in
virtually all major cities, as exemplified by Fairmount Watenvorks,
a series by William Southgate Porter consisting of eight plates made
in Philadelphia in 1848. Photographers throughout the nation made
panoramic views of the cities in an attempt to encompass the urban
growth taking place before their eyes; a 360-degree panorama of
Chicago made by Alexander Hesler in 1858 was possibly the first such
effort. Wilderness landscape was treated similarly by the San
Francisco daguerreotypist Robert Vance and by John Wesley Jones,
early American daguerreotypists of western scenery. Jones took 1,500
views in the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada (none of which has
survived) on which to base a painted panorama entitled The Great
Panoramic views also were made on single plates of extended width,
achieved either by using a wide-angle lens, or by racking the camera
to turn slowly in an arc while the plate moved laterally in the
opposite direction. In 1845, Fredrich von Martens, a German
printmaker living in Paris, was the first to work out the optical
and mechanical adjustments necessary to make single panoramic
daguerreotypes of his adopted city, then he turned to a similar
format in collodion for Alpine landscapes. Indeed with the advent of
the wet plate, the panorama came into its own, even though panoramas
on paper had been made by the calotypc process. While exposure time
for the glass negative often remained long, the resulting sharply
detailed segments of a scene, printed and glued together to form an
encompassing view, were taken as embracing reality even though the
human eye could not possibly have seen the landscape in that
fashion. However, these panoramas were more realistic than the
lithographed bird's-eye views that were so popular.
By using panoramic cameras that rotated in an arc of approximately
120 degrees, photographers might avoid the exacting calculations
needed to assure that the panels of the panorama would join properly
without overlaps or missing segments, but these devices could not
encompass as wide an angle as the segmented panoramas and
consequently seemed less dramatic. Panoramas were produced by
photographers everywhere, by the Bisson brothers, Adolphe Braun,
Samuel Bourne, and many now-unknown figures in Europe, Asia, and
India, and by American photographers of both urban development and
western wilderness. George Robinson Fardon, William Henry Jackson,
Carleton E. Watkins, and especially Eadweard Muybridgc, who devoted
himself to making panoramic views of San Francisco on three
different occasions, were among the more successful panoramists in
the United States during the collodion/albumen era.
Despite unparalleled clarity of
detail in landscape daguerreotypes, the difficulties in making and
processing exposures in the field and the problems of viewing an
image subject to reflections and of replicating the image for
publication made it an inefficient technology with respect to views.
From the start, the duplicatable calotype was accepted by many as a
more congenial means of capturing scenery, and it achieved greater
sensitivity and flexibility for this purpose after improvements had
been made by Louis Desire Blanquart-Evrard and Gustave Le Gray. Be-tween
1841 and about 1855, when collodion on glass sup-planted paper
negatives entirely, calotypists documented cityscape, historic and
exotic monuments, rural scenery, and the wilder, less-accessible
terrains that were beginning to appeal to Europeans who had wearied
of the more familiar settings. Because of their broad delineation,
calotype views more nearly resembled graphic works such as
aquatints, and this tended to increase their appeal to both artists
and elitists in the intellectual community who preferred aesthetic
objects to informational documents. Nevertheless, the calotype still
had enough detail to recommend it as a basis for copying, as the
British publication The Art Union pointed out in 1846 when it noted
that painters, not being as enterprising as photographers, could
depend on "sun-pictures" (calotypes) of places such as "the ruins of
Babylon or the wilds of Australia" for accurate views from which
they could make topographical paintings.
Somewhat easier to deal with than
daguerreotyping in the field, the chemistry of the early calotype
still was complicated enough to make its use in travel a problem.
Nevertheless, a number of British amateurs (often aided by servants
and local help) transported paper, chemicals, and cameras to the
Continent and the Near East soon after Talbot's announcement. Three
members of his circle— Calvert Jones, George W. Bridges, and
Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot—were the first hardy souls to journey
from Great Britain to Italy, Greece, and North Africa with calotype
equipment. Through its high vantage point and pattern of light and
shade, a view of the Porta della Ripetta in Rome suggests that
Jones (who photographed in Italy and Malta) was interested in
atmospheric and artistic qualities as much as in description.
Bridges, who traveled in the region for seven years, made some 1,700
pictures, which he found were subject to serious fading; a small
group was published in 1858 and 1859 in an album entitled Palestine
as It Is: In a Series of Photographic Views... Illustrating the
Bible. Another group of calotypes of the area by Dr. Claudius Galen
Wheelhouse was gathered together in an album entitled Photographic
Sketches from the Shores of the Mediterranean. Ernest De Caranza in
Anatolia, Maxime Du Camp in Egypt, and Pierre Tremaux in the Sudan
were others among the irly figures who attempted, with varying
degrees of success, to use the calotype process to photograph in
North Africa and the Near East. These works were forerunners of the
numerous views on paper whose appeal to die Victorian public may
have been in part because they afforded a contrast between the
progress visible at home and the undeveloped landscape of the region
and in part because they recalled to viewers their biblical and
REV. CALVERT JONES. Porta della Ripetta, Rome, 1846.
Calotype. Science Museum, London.
In spite of these efforts and even
though Talbot placed no restrictions on the noncommercial use of
calotypes, view-making did not exactly flourish in England during
the first ten years of the process's existence. Instead, images of
landscape and architecture achieved a pinnacle of excellence in
France during the 1850s, as a result of interest by a small group of
painter-photographers in an improved paper process that had evolved
from experiments by Blanquart-Evrard and Le Gray. By waxing the
paper negative before exposure, Le Gray achieved a transparency akin
to glass, making the paper more receptive to fine detail. The spread
of this improved technique in France during the early 1850s gave the
calotype a new life and resulted in images of extraordinary quality.
This flowering coincided with the concern among Barbizon landscape
painters for capturing the quality of light and revealing the value
of unspoiled nature in human experience.
The improved calotype also made
conceivable the photographic campaign—government or privately
sponsored commissions to produce specific images. One of the
earliest was financed in 1850 by the Belgian treasury, but the most
renowned, the Missions heliqgraphiques, was organized in 1851 by the
Commission des Monuments his-tofiques (Commission on Historical
Monuments) to pro-vide a pictorial census of France's architectural
patrimony. Undertaken initially during the Second Republic, in
accord with continuing efforts by Napoleon III to preserve and
modernize France, it involved the documentation of aged and
crumbling churches, fortresses, bridges, and castles that were
slated for restoration under the guidance of the architect Eugene
The five photographers engaged in
this innovative documentation were Edouard Denis Baldus, Hippolyte
Bayard, Le Gray, Henri Le Secq, and O. Mestral. Photographers
received itineraries and instructions, quite exact at rimes,
detailing the localities to be photographed. Among the most
accomplished of the group were Le Gray and Le Secq, both of whom had
been trained as painters in the studio of Paul Delaroche (along with
the British photographer Roger Fenton). Le Secq's Strasbourg
Cathedral, one of a series of architectural monuments, is an
exhilarating organization of masses of sculptural detail. Le Gray,
in whose studio many calotypists first learned the process, was a
demanding technician who also was involved in making collodion
negatives; his images will be discussed shordy in the context of
developments in that material. Little is known of Mestral, a former
daguerreotypist and an associate of Le Gray, other than that he
photographed in Brittany and Normandy on his own and from the
Dordogne southward in company with Le Gray. The image of the bridge
Pont Valentre in Cahors, included because of impending plans to
restore what was then considered the finest example of medieval
military architecture in France, suggests a distinctive feeling for
volume and silhouette.
HENRI LE SECQ. Strasbourg Cathedral,
International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House,
O. MESTRAL. Cahors: Pont Valentre, c. 1851. Calotype.
Caisse NationaJc des Monuments Historiques et des Sites, Paris.
Unhappily, the Missions project
never reached full fruition. Negatives—some 300—and prints were
filed away without being reproduced or published, either because the
project's sole aim was to establish an archive or because the
photographers depicted these ancient structures in too favorable a
light for the images to serve as propaganda for restoration efforts.
Individually, they were used by architects and masons working under
Viollet-le-Duc's guidance in matching and fabricating decorative
elements that had been destroyed. (More than a century later, these
early photographs still proved to be useful guides in the
restoration of ancient monuments.) Nevertheless, the government of
France under Napoleon III continued to regard photography—whether
calotype or collodion/ albumen—as a tool integral to its expansive
domestic and foreign programs, commissioning documentation of the
countryside, the railroad lines, and of natural disasters as
evidence of its concern for national programs and problems. Baldus
produced about 30 large-format negatives of the flooding of the
Rhone River in 1856. It is apparent from the amplitude of his vision
and the sense of structure in the example seen here that no
dichotomy existed in the photographer's mind between landscape art
EDOUARD DENIS BALDUS. The Flooding of the Rhone at Avignon, 1856.
Calotype. Caisse Nationale des Monuments Historiques et des Sites,
Not all French landscape
calotypists were trained artists, nor was their work invariably
commissioned. Indeed, one of the intriguing aspects of the epoch is
that scientists as well as painters found the paper negative a
congenial process for representing nature. Victor Regnault, director
of the Sevres porcelain factory (after 1852) and president of both
the French Academy of Sciences and the Societe Franfaise de
Photographic, had first become curious about paper photography when
Talbot disclosed the process, but only pursued this interest in 1851
after improvements had been made by Blanquart- Evrard. Using the
waxed-paper process, he experimented with exposure and produced a
number of idyllic, mist-shrouded views of the countryside around the
factory, among them The Banks of the Seine at Sevres, in which he
included the everyday objects of rural existence such as casks and
barrow. Louis Robert, chief of the painters and gilders at the
porcelain factory, worked both at Sevres and Versailles, using the
calotype process before turning to albumen on glass; a number of his
calotypcs were included in Blanquart-Evrard's 1853 publication
Souvenirs de Versailles. These images display a sensibility that is
similar to that of Barbizon painters in their lyrical approach to
the homely and simple aspects and objects of nature and rural life.
VICTOR REGNAULT. The Banks of the Seine at Sevres, 1851-52.
Calotype. Collection Andre Jammes, Paris. Art Institute of Chicago.
LOUIS ROBERT. Versailles, Neptune Basin, c. 1853.
Calotype. Collection Andre Jammes, Paris. Art Institute of Chicago
British amateur photographers
welcomed the improved calotype for its greater sensitivity and
definition. As heirs to picturesque and topographical traditions in
landscape imagery, they sought to maintain a delicate balance
between affective expression and the descriptive clarity that the
improved process made possible. At times, English camera images of
buildings and their surroundings seem to reflect the notion put
forth by contemporary writers that architectural structures have
expressive physiognomies much like those of humans. For example,
Guy's Cliffe, Warwickshire by the English amateur Robert Henry
Cheney brings to mind a melancholy spirit, a phrase used by Ruskin
to describe the character of certain kinds of buildings. The most
celebrated English photographer of this period, Roger Fenton (to be
discussed shortly), was extravagantly praised in the British press
for the marked "character" of his architectural images.
ROBERT HENRY CHENEY. Guy's Cliffe, Warwickshire, 1850s.
Albumen print. Collection Centre Canadien d'Architecture/Canadian
Centre for Architecture, Montreal.
Benjamin Brecknell Turner, an
English businessman who made pure landscape calotypes as well as
portraits and architectural views, found the paper negative so
sympathetic to his vision of untrammeled nature that he continued to
work with the material until 1862, long after most photographers had
switched to glass plates. On the other hand, Thomas Keith, a
Scottish physician, practiced the calotype for only a very few
years, and then only on occasions when the quality of light enabled
him to make negatives of great tonal range. Keith's interest in the
expressive nature of light, inspired perhaps by his acquaintance
with Hill and Adamson, is apparent in images made in 1856 on the
island of Iona, among them Doorway, St. Oran's Chapel, where the
factual record of ancient church architecture is given unusual force
by strongly accentuated illumination.
BENJAMIN BRECKNELL TURNER. Old Willows, c. 1856.
Waxed paper negative. Collection Andre Jammes, Paris. Art Institute
THOMAS KEITH. Doorway, St. Gran's Chapel, Iona, 1856.
Calotype. Thomas Keith Collection, Edinburgh City Libraries.
Calotyping also appealed to
Englishmen who made their homes outside the British Isles, among
them Maxwell Lyte and John Stewart, who lived in Pau in the Pyrenees
in the 1850s. Stewart's views of the rugged terrain of this region,
published by Blanquart-Evrard and exhibited in England, were praised
by his father-in-law Sir John Herschcl for the artistic effects of
their "superb combination of rock, mountain, forest and water." Both
Lyte and Stewart were members of the Societe Frangaise de
Photographic Along with Thomas Sutton, the first in Britain to use
Blanquart-Evrard's process in a publishing venture, they kept open
the channels of communication between the French and British
regarding the latest in photochemical technology.
JOHN STEWART. Passage in the Pyrenees, n.d.
Calotype. Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh
French and British imperial
interest in the countries of the Near East, Egypt in particular,
continued to lure photographers using paper (and later glass)
negatives into these regions. In 1849, the wealthy French journalist
Maxime Du Camp, accompanied by the young Flaubert, was sent on an
official photographic mission to Egypt. Trained by Le Gray and
equipped with calotyping appa-ratus "for die purpose of securing,
along the way, and with the aid of this marvelous means of
reproduction, views of monuments and copies of inscriptions," Du
Camp also was expected to make facsimile casts of hieroglyphic
inscriptions. The calotypes, printed in 1852 by Blanquart-Evrard for
his first publication, Egypte, Nubie, Palestine et Syrie, 11 display
a concern for establishing accurate scale, as seen in the human
yardstick provided by a native assistant in The Colossus of Abu
Simbel, but they also demonstrate the definition and clarity that
the improved calotype made possible.
MAXIME DU CAMP. The Colossus of Abu Simbel, c. 1850.
Calotype. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Five years later, the amateur
French archaeologist Augustc Salzmann briefly used the calotype with
similar authority to make documents of architectural ruins in
Jerusalem in order to "render a service to science" and to help
solve a controversy about the antiquity of the monuments. Working
with an assistant, Salzmann was able to produce about 150 paper
negatives under difficult circum-stances; these, too, were printed
at the Blanquart-Evrard establishment at Lille. In addition to an
avowed scientific aim, images such as Jerusalem, Islamic Fountain
indicate the photographer's mastery of composition and sensitivity
to the effects of light. The work of both Du Camp and Salzmann
indicates that in the hands of imaginative individuals the camera
image might develop a unique aesthetic, an ability to handle volume
and light in an evocative manner while also documenting actuality.
AUGUSTE SALZMANN. Jerusalem, Islamic Fountain, 1854.
Calotype. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
Landscapes in Colbdion/Albumen
The new collodion technology,
discovered and publicized by Archer in 1850 and 1851, forced
landscape photographers and documentarians operating in the field to
transport an entire darkroom—tent, trays, scales, chemicals, and
even distilled water—besides cameras and glass plates. It may seem
astonishing today that, under such circumstances, this technique
should have been considered an improvement over the calotypc, which
also was somewhat more sensitive to natural tonalities and had
greater range. But paper negatives required time-consuming skills
for complete realization. With the promise of sharper and more
predictable results in less time, the glass negative with its
coating of collodion and silver-iodide preempted all other processes
for the next 30 years. Together with the albumen print, which
retained the sharpness of the image because the printing paper was
also coated with an emulsion, collodion made the mechanization of
the landscape view possible, turning the scenic landscape into an
item of consumption, and landscape photography into photo-business.
Limitations in the sensitivity of
the collodion material itself were responsible for evoking
contradictory aesthetic attitudes about images made from glass
plates. Because of the limited responsiveness of silver-iodide to
the colors of spectral light other than blue (and ultraviolet
radiation), landscape images that displayed blank white skies and
dark, relatively undifferentiated foregrounds were not un-common.
While commercial publishers seem not to have been unduly disturbed,
this characteristic was decried by Lady Elizabeth Eastlake, one of
the first serious English critics of photography. Writing in the
Quarterly Review in 1857, she observed, "If the sky be given,
therefore, the landscape remains black and underdone; if the
landscape be rendered, the impatient action of light has burnt out
all cloud form in one blaze of white.'" She added that the collodion
landscape photograph was unable to represent the tonal gradations
that the eye accepts as denoting spatial recession, and that by its
combined lack of atmosphere and too great precision, the image
showed both too little and too much. Among others who objected to
the lack of realism in the extreme contrast between dark and light
areas in landscape photographs was Hermann Wilhelm Yogel, an
influential German photographer, critic, and photo-chemical
researcher, whose opinions appeared frequently in American
periodicals during the 1860s and '70s, and who was successful in his
efforts to improve the sensitivity of the silver halides to the
various colors of light.
UNKNOWN. European-style Portable Darkroom Tent, 1877.
Wood engravings from A History and Handbook of Photography, edited
by J. Thompson, 1877.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; gift of Spencer Bickerton,
Photographers concerned with
artistic landscapes avoided these problems with what was called
"artifice." This involved using masks and combining two negatives on
the same print—one for the sky and one for the ground—-or employing
hand-manipulations to remove un-attractive mottled and gray areas.
Valley of the Huisne by Camille Silvy, praised as a "gem" when
exhibited in 1858, exemplifies the possibilities of this technique
for creating scenes that a contemporary critic characterized as
"rich in exquisite and varied detail, with broad shadows stealing
over the whole." Le Gray, whose role in paper photography has been
noted, used double printing in a number of collodion seascapes made
at Sete (Cettc) around 1856—works similar in theme and style to
seascapes painted by French artists Eugene Delacroix and Gustave
Courbet at about the same time. Less traditionally picturesque than
Silvy's scene, Le Gray transformed clouds, sea, and rocks into an
evocative arrangement of volume and light, into an "abstraction
called art," in today's language. That composite landscapes of this
period could be and often were unconvincingly pieced together is
apparent from contemporary criticism that complained of pictures
with clouds that were not reflected in the water or of foregrounds
taken in early morning joined to skies taken at noon.
CAMILLE SILVY. Valley of the Huisne,
Albumen print. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
GUSTAVE LE GRAY. Brig Upon the Water, 1856.
Albumen. Albumen print. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Gustave Le Gray
Gustave Le Gray (1820–1884) is known as the most important
French photographer of the nineteenth century because of his
technical innovations in the still new medium of
photography, his role as the teacher of other noted
photographers, and the extraordinary imagination he brought
to picture making.The Getty-Le Gray
Le Gray was originally trained as a painter, studying under
Paul Delaroche, but crossed over to the new medium of
photography in the early years of its development. He was
more than just a photographer he expanded this new medium
with his technical inventions. One of the most defining is
that of the waxed-paper negative. This invention he
developed and perfected in France around 1849 as stated in A
World History Of Photography by Naomi Rosenblum.A World
History of Photography Le Gray had also worked out a
collodion process at the same time, but did not publish
either discovery until 1851. This resulted in the collodion
technology being accredited to Frederick Scott Archer who
discovered his process in 1850 and then published it in
Later in life Le Gray expanded his horizons by touring the
Mediterranean with the writer Alexandre Dumas, pere. Le Gray
then carried on to Lebanon and ending his journeys in Egypt
where he became a professor of drawing. He died in 1884 in
The Beech Tree, 1856
Zouave Storyteller, 1857
Portrait of Giuseppe Garibaldi, 1860
Pius IX's Railroad Car, 1859
Pyramids, Gizeh, Egypt , 1865-1869
Lighthouse and Jetty , 1856-1857
The government of Napoleon III,
which had promoted the calotype as a means of documenting both
scientific progress and royal patronage, continued to regard
collodion images in the same light. What at first glance may seem to
be landscape pure and simple, such as views taken in the Alps by the
Bisson brothers, was motivated by the Imperial desire to celebrate
territorial acquisition—in this case the ceding to France of Nice
and Savoy by the Kingdom of Sardinia. During the collodion era, the
Bissons had rapidly extended their range of subjects to embrace art
reproductions, architecture, and landscapes, often in very large
format. Passage des Ecbelles, one of the six views made by
Auguste-Rosalie as a participant in the second scaling of Mont Blanc
in 1862, integrates the description of distinctive geological
formations with a classical approach to composition, achieving in
its balance of forms and tonalities a work of unusually expressive
power. A similar evocation of solitary nature unaltered by human
effort can be seen in Gorge of the Tamine by Charles Soulier, a
professional view-maker who is better known for his urbane Paris
scenes than for Alpine landscapes. In view of steadily encroaching
urbanization, these images suggest a public nostalgia for virgin
nature that will be encountered again, more forcefully, in camera
images of the American wilderness during the 1860s and '70s. Scenic
views found an avid entrepreneur as well as photographer in Adolphe
Braun. With studios in both Paris and Alsace, he was not only a
prolific view-maker, but a large-scale publisher who supplied prints
in a variety of formats—stereoscope to panoramic—to subscribers in
England, France, Germany, and the United States. Responding to the
imperial desire to make Alsatians aware of their French heritage,
Braun first photographed the landscape and monuments of this
province and then went on to make more than 4,000 images of Alpine,
Black Forest, and Vosges mountain scenery, eventually printing in
carbon instead of albumen in order to insure print stability.
Braun's views, of which Lake Steamers at Winter Mooring, Switzerland
is an outstanding example, display a skillful blend of information
and artistry but also present the landscape as accessible by the
inclusion of human figures or structures.
AUGUSTE -ROSALIE BISSON. Passage des
Echeles (Ascent of Mi. Blanc), 1862.
Albumen print. Bibliothequc Nationale, Paris.
CHARLES SOULIER. Gorge of the Tamine,
Albumen print. Collection Gerard-Levy, Paris.
ADOLPHE BRAUN. Lake Steamers at Winter Mooring, Switzerland, c.
Carbon print. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
England, too, had landscapists with
an authentic respect for what the collodion process could
accomplish, but government patronage was limited to royal acclaim
and, at times, purchase of individual images by members of the royal
family, with documentations of the countryside and historical
monuments initiated by photographers themselves or by private
publishers rather than by the state. Fenton, the commanding figure
in English photography before his retirement in 1862, had made
calotypes of architectural monuments in Russia in 1852. He changed
to collodion in 1853, and after his return from the Crimean War, he
had another traveling darkroom constructed to facilitate making
views of rugged rocks, mountain gorges, waterfalls, and
ruins—romantic themes to which thee British turned as
industrialization advanced. Contemporary critics on both sides of
the Channel considered his landscapes to have reached the heights to
which camera images could aspire, especially with respect to
capturing atmosphere and a sense of aerial perspective. However,
because Fenton refused to combine negatives or do handwork, images
with strong geometric pattern, such as The Terrace and Park,
Harewood House, were criticized as offensive. A number of Fenton's
landscapes were published as stereographs in The Stereoscopic
Maagazine, as photoengravings in Photographic Art Treasures and as
albumen prints in albums and books devoted to native landscape—these
being the forms in which scenic images found an audience in the
1850s and 60s.
ROGER FENTON. The Terrace and Park, Harewood House, 1861.
Albumen print. Royal Photographic Society Bath, England.
Fenton (March 20, 1819 - August 8, 1869) was a pioneering
British photographer, one of the first war photographers.
Roger Fenton was born in Heywood, Lancashire. His
grandfather was a wealthy Lancashire cotton manufacturer and
banker, his father a banker and member of Parliament. Fenton
was the fourth of seven children by his father's first
marriage. His father had 10 more children by his second
In 1838 Fenton went to University College London where he
graduated in 1840 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, having
studied English, mathematics, literature, and logic. In
1841, he began to study law at University College, evidently
sporadically as he did not qualify as a solicitor until
1847, in part because he had become interested in studying
to be a painter. In Yorkshire in 1843 Fenton married Grace
Elizabeth Maynard, presumably after his first sojourn in
Paris (his passport was issued in 1842) where he may briefly
have studied painting in the studio of Paul Delaroche. When
he registered as a copyist in the Louvre in 1844 he named
his teacher as being the history and portrait painter Michel
Martin Drolling, who taught at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, but
Fenton's name does not appear in the records of that school.
By 1847 Fenton had returned to London where he continued to
study painting now under the tutelage of the history painter
Charles Lucy, who became his friend and with whom, starting
in 1850, he served on the board of the North London School
of Drawing and Modelling. In 1849, 1850, and 1851 he
exhibited paintings in the annual exhibitions of the Royal
Fenton visited the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in London
in 1851 and was impressed by the photography on display
there. He then visited Paris to learn the waxed paper
calotype process, most likely from Gustave Le Gray, its
inventor. By 1852 he had photographs exhibited in England,
and travelled to Kiev, Moscow and St. Petersburg making
calotypes there, and photographed views and architecture
around Britain. He published a call for the setting up of a
In 1855 Fenton went to the Crimean War on assignment for the
publisher Thomas Agnew to photograph the troops, with a
photographic assistant Marcus Sparling and a servant and a
large van of equipment. Despite high temperatures, breaking
several ribs, and suffering from cholera, he managed to make
over 350 usable large format negatives. An exhibition of 312
prints was soon on show in London. Sales were not as good as
expected, possibly because the war had ended. According to
Susan Sontag, in her work Regarding the Pain of Others (ISBN
0-374-24858-3) (2003), Fenton was sent to the Crimean War as
the first official war photographer at the insistence of
Prince Albert. The photographs produced were to be used to
offset the general aversion of the British people to an
unpopular war, and to counteract the antiwar reporting of
The Times. The photographs were to be converted into
woodblocks and published in the less critical Illustrated
London News and published in book form and displayed in a
gallery. Fenton avoided making pictures of dead, injured or
Due to the size and cumbersome nature of his photographic
equipment, Fenton was limited in his choice of motifs. And
because of the not very photosensitive material of his time,
he was only able to produce pictures of unmoving objects,
mostly posed pictures. But he also photographed the
landscape, including an area near to where the Light Brigade
- made famous in Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" -
was ambushed, called The Valley of Death; however, Fenton's
photographs were taken in the similarly named The Valley of
the Shadow of Death. Two pictures were taken of this area,
one with several cannonballs on the road, the other with an
empty road. Opinions differ concerning which one was taken
first. Filmmaker Errol Morris wrote a series of essays
canvassing the evidence. He concluded that the photo without
the cannonballs was taken first, but he remained uncertain
about who moved the balls onto the road in the second
picture - were they deliberately placed on the road by
Fenton to enhance the image, or were soldiers in the process
of removing them for reuse?
Several of Fenton's pictures, including the two versions of
The Valley of the Shadow of Death, are published in The
Ultimate Spectacle: A Visual History of the Crimean War by
Ulrich Keller.In 1858 Fenton made studio genre studies based
on romantically imaginative ideas of Muslim life, such as
Seated Odalisque, using friends and models who were not
always convincing in their roles.
Fenton is considered the first war photographer for his work
during the Crimean War, for which he used a mobile studio
called a "photographic van". In recognition of the
importance of his photography, Fenton's photos of the
Crimean war were included in the collection, 100 Photos that
Changed the World.
The Harbour of Balaklava, the Cattle Pier
Vista, Furness Abbey
Still life with Statue
Albumen prints became popular as
book illustration between 1855 and 1885 when, it is believed, more
than a thousand albums and books, sponsored by private organizations
and public personalities, were published, mainly in England,
Scotland, France, India, and the United States. Original photographs
provided artistic, biographical, historical, and scientific
illustration as well as topographical images to supplement and
enhance texts on a wide variety of subjects. Even the small,
relativety undetailed stereograph view was considered appropriate to
illustrate scientific and travel books; one of the first to use the
double image in this manner was C. Piazzi Smyth's Teneriffe, which
appeared in 1858 with 18 stereograph views of the barren island
landscape where Smyth and his party conducted astronomical
experiments. It was soon followed by The Stereoscopic Magazine, a
monthly publication that lasted five years and included still lifts
and land- and cityscape stereographs. The success of illustration
with photographic prints of any kind may be ascribed to their
fidelity and cheapness and to the relative rapidity with which paper
prints could be glued into the publication, while the decline of
this practice was the result of even more efficient photomechanical
methods that made possible the printing of text and image at the
Wales and Scodand provided other
English photographers besides Fenton with localities for wilderness
images, among them Francis Bedford who made Glas Pwil Cascade in
1865. In common with many landscapists of the period, Bedford issued
stereographs as well as larger-format views because they were
inexpensive and in popular demand. However, it was the Scottish
photographer Wilson, probably the most successful of the view
publishers, who is believed to have had the world's largest stock of
scenic images in the 1880s. Interested also in instantaneous
pictures, Wilson noted that "considerable watching and waiting is
necessary before the effect turns up which is both capable and
worthy of being taken." Using a tent darkroom in the field to
prepare the exposures, this meticulous former portrait painter
employed over 30 assistants in his Aberdeen printing establishment
to carefully wash and gold-tone the prints in order to remove all
chemical residue. As a con-sequence, Wilson albumen prints are of
greater richness and stability than was usual for the era. Other
British landscapists of the collodion era included Frith, William
England, and James Valentine whose successful enterprise in Dundee,
Scotland, turned out views similar to those by Wilson. While
competently composed and well-produced, the absence of atmosphere
and feeling in commercial views were contributing factors in the
endeavors that began in the 1870s to fashion a new aesthetic for
FRANCIS BEDFORD. Glas Pwll Cascade (Lifnant Valley), 1865.
Albumen print. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
GEORGE WASHINGTON WILSON. The Silver Strand, Loch Katrine, c.
Albumen print. George Washington Wilson Collection, Aberdeen
Similar ideas about landscape
motivated German view-makers of the 1850s and '60s. Outstanding
calotype views had been made in the early 1850s by Franz Hanfstaengl
and Hermann Krone, before these individuals changed to collodion.
Krone, the more versatile of the two, who advertised his
Photogmphisches Institut in Dresden as a source for scenic views and
stereographs as well as portraits, was commissioned by the crown to
produce views of the countryside and cityscape throughout Saxony,
which resulted in the appearance in 1872 of his Komigs-Album der
Stadte Saehsens (King's Album of Saxon Cities) to celebrate the
golden wedding anniversary of the rulers of Saxony. Though less
idealized than some, these views of Dresden and its natural
environs, exemplified by Waterfall in Saxon Switzerland, still
reflect the romantic attitude of the view painters of the early 19th
century. Romanticism also suffuses Bridge Near King's Monument, an
1866 image by Vogel, but the focus of this work is light and not
locality. In a still different vein, studies of forest foliage and
trees made in the mid- to Iate-186os and typified by the work of
Gerd Volkerling suggest the influence of the Barbizon style of
HERMANN KRONE. Waterfall in Saxon
Albumen print. Deutsches Museum, Munich.
HERMANN VOGEL. Bridge near King's Monument, 1866.
Albumen print. Agfa-Gevaert Foto-Historama, Cologne, Germany.
GERD VOLKERLING. Oak Trees in Dessau, 1867.
Albumen print. Agfa-Gevaert Foto-Historama, Cologne, Germany.
Landscape photography developed in
the Scandinavian countries in the 1860s and '70s in response to the
tourism that brought affluent British and German travelers to the
rocky coasts of this region in search of untamed nature.
Photographers Marcus Selmer of Denmark, Axel Lindahl and Per Adolf
Thoren of Sweden, and the Norwegians Hans Abel, Knud Knudsen, and
Martin Skoien, all supplied good souvenir images to voyagers who,
there as elsewhere, wished to individualize their recollections with
picturesque travel images. The most dramatic of these views—the
mist-shrouded mountains and tormented ice and rock formations
captured by Knudsen during his 35 or so years as an outstanding
scenic photographer—reflect the prominent influence of the German
Romantic style of landscape painting in that they not only serve as
remembrances of places visited but encapsulate a sense of the
KNUD KNUDSEN. Torghatten, Nordland, c. 1885.
Albumen print. Picture Collection, Bergen University Library,
Landscape photographs of Italy were
made almost exclusively as tourist souvenirs. A continuing stream of
travelers from northern Europe and the United States ensured an
income for a group of excellent foreign and Italian photographers.
Here, especially, the romantic taste for ruins was easily indulged,
with most images including at least a piece of ancient sculpture,
building, or garden. As photography historian Robert Sobicszek has
pointed out, because Italy was seen as the home of civilization,
early photographers were able to infuse their views with a sense of
the romantic past at almost every turn. In Grotto of Neptune,
Tivoli, taken in the early 1860s, Robert MacPherson, a Scottish
physician who set himself up as an art dealer in Rome, captured the
strong shadows that suggest unfathomable and ancient mysteries while
fashioning an almost abstract pattern of tonalities and textures.
Interest in romantic effects is apparent also in Night View of the
Roman Forum by Gioacchino Altobelli, a native Roman who at times
collaborated with his countryman Pompeo Molins on scenic views.
Altobelli, later employed by the Italian Railroad Company, was
considered by contemporaries to be especially adept at combining
negatives to recreate the sense of moonlight on the ruins—a popular
image because of the touristic tradition of visiting Roman ruins by
ROBERT MACPHERSON. Grotto of Neptune,
Albumen print. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
GIOACCHINO ALTOBELLI. Night View of the Roman Forum, 1865-75.
Albumen print, nrernational Museum of Photography at George Eastman
House, Rochester, N.Y.
The best known by far of the
Italian view-makers were the Brogi family and the Alinari brothers;
the latter established a studio in Florence that is still in
existence. Like Braun in France, the Alinari ran a mass-production
photo-graphic publishing business specializing in art reproductions,
but their stock also included images of fruit and flowers and views
of famous monuments and structures in Rome and Florence. In the
south, Giorgio Sommer, of German origin, began a similar but smaller
operation in Naples in 1857, providing genre scenes as well as
landscapes. In Venice, tourist views were supplied by Carlo Ponti,
an optical-instrument maker of fine artistic sensitivity that is
apparent in San Giorgio Maggiore Seen from the Ducal Palace, made in
the early 1870s. Given the long tradition in Italy of
vedute—small-scale topographical scenes—it is not surprising that
camera views of such subject matter should so easily have become
accomplished and accepted.
CARLO PONTI. San Giorgio Maggiore Seen from the Ducal Palace, 1870s.
Albumen print. Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Mass.
Other European nations on the
Mediterranean such as Spain and Greece, while renowned for scenic
beauty and ruins, were not documented with nearly the same
enterprise as Italy, probably because they were outside the
itineraries of many 19th-century travelers. The best-known
photographs of Spain were made by Charles Clifford, an expatriate
Englishman living in Madrid, who was court photographer to Queen
Isabella II. Working also in other cities than the capital, Clifford
photographed art treasures as well as landscapes and architectural
subjects; his view The Court of the Albambra in Granada suggests a
sense of sunlit quietude while still capturing the extraordinary
richness of the interior carving. As one might anticipate, views of
Greece, particularly the Acropolis, were somewhat more common than
of Spain and also more commonplace. Photographed by native and
foreign photographers, the most evocative are by James Robertson,
Jean Walther, and William Stillman, an American associated with the
British Pre-Raphaelites who had turned to photography as a result of
disappointment with his painting. Stillman's images, published in
1870 as The Acropolis of Athens Illustrated Picturesquely and
Architecturally, were printed by the carbon process, which in
England was called Autotype.
CHARLES CLIFFORD. The Court of the Alhambra in Granada. c. 1856.
Albumen print. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
WILLIAM STILLMAN. Interior of the Parthenon front the Western Gate,
Carbon print. Photograph Collection, New York Public Library, Astor,
Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.
Landscape Photography in the Near
East and the Orient
Tourists were the main consumers of
the views of Italy, but armchair travelers bought scenes from other
parts of the world in the hope of obtaining a true record, "far
beyond anything that is in the power of the most accomplished artist
to transfer to his canvas." These words express the ambitious goal
that Frith set for himself when he departed on his first trip to the
Nile Valley in 1856. Before i860, he made two further journeys,
extending his picture-taking to Palestine and Syria and up the Nile
beyond the fifth cataract. In addition to photographing, he wrote
voluminously on the difficulties of the project, especially owing to
the climate, commenting on the "smothering little tent" and the
collodion fizzing—boiling up over the glass—as well as on the sights
in which he delighted— temples, sphinxes, pyramids, tombs, and rock
FRANCIS FRITH (?). Traveller's Boat at Iimm, c. 1859.
Albumen print. Francis Frith Collection. Andovcr, England,
Frith's discussion of the
compositional problems of view photography throws light on an aspect
of 19th-century landscape practice often ignored. This was "die
difficult}' of getting a view satisfactorily in the camera:
foregrounds are especially perverse; distance too near or too far;
the falling away of the ground; the intervention of some brick wall
or other common object.... Oh what pictures we would make if we
could command our points of view." While Frith undoubtedly" had
traditional painting concepts in mind when he wrote this, images
such as Approach to Philae show that he was capable of finding
refreshing photographic solutions to these problems. The Egyptian
and Near Eastern views were published by Frith himself and by others
in a variety of sizes, formats, and in a number of different
volumes, some in large editions. The most ambitious, Egypt and
Palestine Photographed and Described, had a significant effect on
British perceptions of Egypt, as Frith had hoped it would, because
the photographer, in addition to sensing the money-making
possibilities of the locality, had voiced the belief that British
policy-makers should wake up to the pronounced French influence in
FRANCIS FRITH. Approach to Philae, c. 1858.
Albumen print. Stuart Collection, New York Public Library, Astor,
Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.
Some 40 photographers, male and
female, from European countries and the United States, arc known to
have been attracted to the Near East before 1880, among them
Bedford, who accompanied the Prince of Wales in 1862, the Vicomte of
Banville, Antonio Beato, Felice Beato, Felix and Marie Bonfils,
Wilhelm Von Herford, and James Robertson. Studios owned by local
photographers also sprang up. Due to the superficial similarities of
subject and identical surnames, for many years the two Beatos,
Antonio and Felice, were thought to be the same individual,
commuting heroically between the Near and Far East, but now it is
known that Antonio was the proprietor of an Egyptian firm based in
Luxor that produced thousands of tourist images after 1862, among
diem this view of die interior of the Temple of Horns at Edfu, while
his brother, after a brief visit to Egypt with Robertson, was
responsible for photographic activities in India and die Orient.
ANTONIO BEATO. Interior of Temple ofHorus, Edfu, after 1862.
Albumen print. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
The Bonfils family enterprise,
operating from Beirut where they had moved from France in 1867, is
typical of the second generation of Near East photographers. In a
letter to the Soctete Fvangaise de Photographic in 1871, Ronfils
reported diat he had a stock of 591 negatives, 15,000 prints, and
9,000 stercographic views, all intended for an augmented tourist
trade. Because die business was handed down from generation to
generation, and stocks of photographs were acquired from one firm by
another, there is no way of deciding exacdy from whose hand images
such as Dead Sea, A View of the Expanse actually comes. Furthermore,
by the 1880s, scenic views of die region and its monuments had lost
the freshness and vitalitv that had informed earlier images,
resulting in die trivialization of the genre even though a great
number of photographers continued to work in the area.
FELIX BONFILS, or family. Dead Sea, A View of the Expanse. 1860-90.
Albumen print. Semitic Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
Photographers working with paper
and collodion began to penetrate into India and the Far East toward
die end of the 1850s, but providing images for tourists was not
their only goal. In India, photography was considered a documentary
tool with which to describe to die modier country the exotic and
mysterious landscape, customs, and people of a subject land; as such
it was supported by the British military and ruling establishment.
Dr. John McCosh and Captain Linnaeus Tripe were the first to
calotype monuments and scenery, the latter producing prize-winning
views diat were considered "very Indian in their character and
picturesquely selected." As a consequence of imperialistic interest,
a spate of photographically illustrated books and albums issued from
both commercial and military photographers during the 1860s and
'70s, with illustrations by Felice Beato, P. A. Johnston, and W, H.
Pigou Samuel Bourne, the most prominent landscapist working in
collodion in India, was a partner with Charles Shepherd in the
commercial firm of Bourne and Shepherd, and traveled at times with
650 glass plates, two cameras, a ten-foot-high tent, and two crates
of chemicals. He requires the assistance of 42 porters, widiout
whom, it was noted in the British press, photography in India would
not have been possible for Europeans." As part of an endeavor to
produce A Pennanent Record of India, Bourne explores remote areas in
the high Himalaya mountains and in Kashmir during his seven-year
stay. A perfectionist who had left a career in banking to
photograph, he claimed thai he waited several days for the favorable
circumstances that might allow him to achieve the tonal qualities
seen in, for example, Boulders on the Road to Muddan Mahal. Colin
Murray, who took over Bourne's large-format camera when the latter
returned to England, apparent!".
SAMUEL BOURNE. Boulders on the Road to Muddan Mahal, c. 1867.
Albumen print. Royal Photographic Society, Bath, England.
Also inherited his approach to
landscape composition; both believed that a body of water almost
inevitably improved the image. The lyrical Water Palace at Udaipur
is one of a group of landscapes that Murray made for a publication
entitled Photographs of Architecture and Scenery in Gujerat and
Rajputana, which appeared in 1874.
Lala Deen Dayal, the most
accomplished Indian photographer of the 19th century, and Darogha
Ubbas Alii, an engineer by profession, appear to have been the only
Indian photographers to publish landscape views. Deen Dayal of
Indore began to photograph around 1870, becoming official
photographer to the viceroy and soon afterward to the nizam (ruler)
of Hyderabad; his studios in Hyderabad and Bombay, known as Raja
Deen Dayal and Sons, turned out portraits, architectural views, and
special documentary projects commissioned by his patron (see Chapter
8). Architectural images by Ubbas Alii of his native city Lucknow,
issued in 1874, are similar in style to those produced by the
Europeans who were responsible for the majority of Indian scenic
COLIN MURRAY. The Water Palace at Udaipur, c. 1873.
Albumen print. Collection Paul F. Waiter, New York.
As on the Indian subcontinent, scenic views in China and Japan were
made first by visiting Europeans who brought with them, in the wake
of the rebellions and wars that opened China to Western imperialism,
equipment, fortitude, and traditional Western concepts of pictorial
organization. The earliest daguerreotypists of the Orient included
Eliphalet Brown, Jr., who arrived with Commodore Perry's expedition,
and Hugh McKay, who operated a daguerreotype studio in Hong Kong in
the late 1840s; they were followed by other Westerners who arrived
in China hoping to use wetplate technology to record scenery and
events in commerciallv successful ventures. Several of these
photographers purchased the negatives of forerunners, amassing a
large inventory of views that were turned out under the new firm
name. Among the outsiders who were active in China during this
period were M. Rossier, sent by the London firm of Ncgretti and
Zambra (large-scale commercial publishers of stcrcographic views),
and Felice Beato, who in addition to recording episodes in the
conquests by the Anglo-French North China Expeditionary Force in
i860 photographed landscapes and daily activities. Between 1861 and
1864, the American photographer Milton Miller, apparently taught by
Beato and recipient of many of his negatives, worked in Hong Kong,
specializing in portraiture and street scenes. The most energetic
outsider to photograph in China was John Thomson, originally from
Scotland. Using Hong Kong as home base and traveling some 5,000
miles troughout the interior and along the coast—usually accompanied
by eight to ten native bearers—Thomson woirked in China between 1868
and 1872 before returning to England to publish a four-volume work
on Chinese life. His images display a genuine interest in Chinese
customs and seem influenced by traditional Chinese painting, as
exemplified by his treatment of the landscape in Wu-Shan Gorg,
JOHN THOMSON. Wu-Shan Gorge, Szechuan, 1868.
Albumen print. Philadelphia Museum of Arc.
Commercial viewmaking by native
photographers began very slowly, but in 1859 a studio was opened in
Hong Kong by Afong Lai. who was to remain preeminent in this area
throughout the remainder of the century. Highly regarded by Thomson
as "a man of cultivated taste" whose work was "extremely well
executed,'' Afong Lai's images, such as a view of Hong Kong Island,
also reveal an approach similar to that seen in traditional Chinese
landscape painting. Although Afong Lai was virtually alone when he
began his commercial enterprise, by 1884 it was estimated that
several thousand native photographers were in business in China,
although not all made scenic views.
Amateur photography also appears to
have begun slowly, with neither foreign residents nor native Chinese
merchants expressing much interest in this form of expression before
the turn of the century. One exception was Thomas Child, a British
engineer working in Peking in the 1870s, who produced (and also
sold) nearlv 200 views he had taken of that city and its environs,
including an image of a ceremonial gate. After 1900, Ernest Henry
Wilson, a British botanist made ethnographic views, while Donald
Mennie, also British and the director of a well-established firm of
merchants, approached Chinese landscape with the vision and
techniques of the Pictorialist, issuing the soft-focus
romantic-looking portfolio The Pageant of Peking in gravurec prints
Social and political
transformations in Japan during the 1860S—the decade when die Meiji
Restoration signaled the change from feudalism to
capitalism-—created an atmosphere in which both foreign and native
photographers found it possible to function, but besides Beato, who
appears to have come to Japan in 1864, few photographers were
interested at first in pure landscape views. In general, a truly
native landscape tradition did not evolve in India or the Far East
during the collodion era, and, in the period that followed, the
gelatin dry plate and the small-format snapshot camera combined with
the influence of imported Western ideas to make the establishment of
an identifiable national landscape style difficult.
AFONG LAI. Hong Kong Island, late
Albumen print. Collection H. Kwan Lau, New York.
THOMAS CHILD. Damaged Portal of Yuen-Ming- Yuan, Summer Palace,
after the Fire of !860, set by English and French Allied Forces,
Albumen print. Collection H. Kwan Lau, New York.
Landscape in the Americas
On the opposite side of the
Pacific, Mexico was seen by some sectors of the French government as
a possible area of colonialist expansion and therefore came under
the scrutiny of the camera lens. Desire Charnay, a former teacher
with an itch for adventure and a belief in France's destiny in the
Americas, explored and photographed in the ancient ruined cities of
Chichen-Itza, Uxmal, and Palenque betveen 1858 and 1861 (and was
again in Mexico from 1880 to 1882). The first in this part of the
world to successfully use the camera as a research tool in
archeological exploration, Charney published the views in an
expensive two-volume edition of photographs with text by himself and
French architect Viollet-le-Duc, and he made images available for
translation into wood engraving to accompany articles in the popular
press. Despite the fantasy of ideas put forth by the authors
concerning the origins of the ancient cities of the new world, the
photographs themselves, in particular those of die ornately carved
facades of the structures at Chichen-Irza, reveal a mysterious power
that most certainly served to promote popular and scientific
interest in the cultures that had created diese edifices. Though
Charney later worked on expeditions to Madagascar, Java, and
Australia, this first group of images appears to be the most
DEIRE CHARNAY. Chichen-Itza, Yucatan, c. 1858.
Albumen print. Collection Centre Canadien d'Architecture,
Centre for Architecture, Montreal.
Urban topographical views—harbors,
public buildings, and town squares—comprise a large portion of the
photo-graphic landscape documentation made in South America after
mid-century. Supported in some cases by the avid interest of die
ruling family, as in Brazil under Emperor Dom Pedro II—himself an
amateur camera enthusiast— and in other countries by the
scientifically minded Europe-an-oriented middle class, professional
view-makers turned out images that sought to present topography and
urban development in a favorable if not especially exalted light.
The most renowned South American photographer of the time. Marc
Ferrez, a Brazilian who opened his own studio in Rio de Janeiro
after spending part of his youth in Paris, advertised the firm as
specializing in Brazilian views. Introducing figures to establish
scale in his 1870 Rocks at Itapitco, Ferrez's image balances
geological descriptiveness with sensitivity to light to create a
serene yet visually arresting image.
North American attitudes about
scenery reflected the unique situation of a nation without classical
history or tabled ruins that shared a near religious exaltation of
virgin nature. Many Americans were convinced that the extensive
rivers and forests were signs of the munificent hand of God in
favoring the new nation with plenty; others recognized the economic
value of westward expansion and found photography to be the ideal
tool to enshrine ideas of "manifest destiny." Painters of the Hudson
River School and photographers of the American West recorded
landscape as though it were a fresh and unique creation, but while
the optimism of many East Coast artists had vanished in the
aftermath of the Civil War, photographers (and painters) facing
untrammeled western scenery continued to express buoyant reverence
for nature's promise.
MARC FERREZ. Rocks at Itapuca, 1870. Albumen print. Collection H. L.
HofFenberg, New York.
In a literal sense, a photographic
"Hudson River School" did not exist. Eastern landscapists working in
the Hudson Valley and the Adirondack and White mountains regions
among them James Wallace Black, the Bierstadt and Kilburn brothers,
John Soule, and Seneca Ray Stoddard, were concerned largely, though
not exclusively, with a commerce in stereograph views, a format in
which it was difficult to express feelings of sublimity. On
occasion, a sense of the transcendent found its way into images such
as Black's mountain scene; Stoddard's Hudson River Landscape, in
which the horizontal format, luminous river, and small figure
suggest the insignificance of man in relation to nature, is another
JAMES WALLACE BLACK. In the White Mountain Notch, 1854.
Albumen print- An Museum, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.
Robert 0. Dougan Collection.
SENECA RAY STODDARD. Hudson River Landscape, n.d.
Albumen print. Chapman Historical Museum of the Glens
Falls-Queensbury Association, Glens Falls, N.Y.
Although American view photographers were urged to avoid "mere
mechanism" by familiarizing themselves with works by painters such
as Claude, Turner, and Ruisdael, as well as by contemporary American
landscape painters, artistic landscapes in the European style were
of concern only to a small group working out of Philadelphia in the
early 1860s. These photographers responded to a plea by a newly
established journal, Philadelphia Photographer, to create a native
landscape school to do "really first class work," that is, to imbue
landscape with a distinctive aura. Sceneiy in the Region of the
Delaware Water Gap by John Moran, who had been trained as a painter
along with his more famous brother Thomas, is representative of the
work by the Philadelphia naturalists, whose photographic activities
were strongly colored by a conscious regard for artistic values.
Farther west, the Chicago-based, Canadian-born Alexander Hesler had
switched to making collodion negatives of the natural wonders of the
upper Mississippi Valley with similar objectives in mind.
Nevertheless, despite the promotion of native landscape expression
in art and photography periodicals, this genre flowered only after
photographers became involved in the western explorations.
JOHN MORAN. Scenery in the Region of the Delaware Water Gap, c.
Albumen stereograph. Library Company of Philadelphia.
At the same time, it is apparent
from early camera documentation of buildings and the cityscape that
most photographers made little effort to do more than produce a
prosaic record of architectural structures. Images of buildings by
George Robinson Fardon in San Francisco; lames McClees, Frederick
Debourg Richards, and even John Moran, working in Philadelphia; and
the anonymous recorders of architecture in Boston and New York, are
largely unnuanced depictions of cornices, lintels, and brick and
stone work. With the exception of the photographs by Victor
Prevost—a calotypist from France whose views of Central Park and New
York buildings, made around 1855, are informed by a fine sense of
composition and lighting and, in the Reed and Sturges Warehouse, by
a respect for the solid power of the masonry— camera pictures of
cities often appear to be a record of urban expansion, a kind of
adjunct to boostcrism.
VICTOR PROVOST. Reed and Sturges Warehouse, c. 1855.
Calotype. New-York Historical Society, New York.
Photographs of western scenery were
conceived as documentation also, but they project a surpassing
spirit, a sense of buoyant wonder at the grandeur of the wilderness.
These images embody the romanticism of mid-century painting and
literature—the belief that nature in general and mountains in
particular are tangible evidence of the role that the Supreme Deity
played in the Creation. Though necessarily different in scale and
subject from paintings that depict the discovery and exploration of
the North American continent, these photographs reflect the same
confidence in the promise of territorial expansion that had moved
painters of the 1840s and '50s.
Photography became a significant
tool during the 1860s, when railroad companies and government bodies
recognized that it could be useful as part of the efforts by survey
teams to document unknown terrain in the Far West. Scientists,
mapmakers, illustrators, and photographers were hired to record
examples of topography, collect
specimens of botanical and
geological interest, and make portraits of Native Americans as aids
in determining areas for future mineral exploitation and civilian
settlements. In addition to being paid for their time, and/or
supplied with equipment, individual photographers made their own
arrangements with expedition leaders regarding the sale of images.
Views were issued in several sizes and formats, from the stereograph
to the mammoth print—about 20 by 24 inches—which necessitated a
specially constructed camera. For the first time, landscape
documentation emerged as a viable livelihood for a small group of
Whether working in die river
valleys of New York, New England, and Pennsylvania, or the mountains
of the West, American wet-plate photographers transported all their
materials and processing equipment without the large numbers of
porters who attended those working in Europe and the Orient,
although assistance was available from the packers included on
survey teams. Besides the cameras (at times three in number),
photographers carried glass plates in various sizes, assorted
lenses, and chemicals in special vans and by pack animals. Tents and
developing boxes, among them a model patented by the photographer
John Carbutt in 1865, enabled individuals to venture where vehicles
could not be taken. Constant unpacking and repacking, the lack of
pure water, the tendency of dust to adhere to the sticky
collodion—problems about which all survey photographers
complained—make the serene clarity of many of these images
Carbutt's Portable Developing Box.
Wood engraving from The Philadelphia Photographer, January, 1865.
Following efforts by Solomon Nuncs
Carvalho to make topographical daguerreotypes on Colonel John C.
Fremont's explorations west of the Mississippi, the American painter
Albert Bierstadt, accompanying an expedition to the Rocky Mountains
in 1859, was among the first to attempt to publicize the grandeur of
western scenery. His wet-plate stereographs are visually weak, but
they (and articles written on the subject for The Crayon, a
periodical devoted to the support of a native landscape art)
exemplify the interest in the West by scientists and writers as well
as artists. California, especially, became the focus of early
documentation, including that by Charles L. Weed and Carleton E.
Watkins, who began to photograph the scenery around Yosemite Valley
in the early 1860s. Both had worked in the San Jose gallery of
daguerreotypist Robert Vance, who stocked a large inventory of
scenic views taken in Chile and Peru as well as in the West. By
1868, Watkins—who had made his first views of Yosemite five years
earlier and had worked on the Whitney Survey of the region in 1866,
when he shot Cathedral Rock—had become internationally recognized in
photo-graphic circles for establishing the mountain landscape as a
symbol of transcendent idealism. Impelled perhaps by the
controversies then current among naturalists, including expedition
leader Clarence King, regarding the relation¬ship of religion to
geology and evolution, Watkins's images of rocks seem to emphasize
their animate qualities.
CARLETON E. WATKINS. Cathedral Rock, 2,600 Feet, Yosemite, No. 21,
published by I. Taber, c. 1866.
Albumen print. Metropolitan Museum of An, New York; Elisha
Whittelscy Collection, Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1922.
Eadweard Muybridge, Watkins's
closest competitor, produced views of Yosemite in 1868 and 1872 that
likewise enshrine the wilderness landscape as emblematic of the
American dream of unsullied nature. Muybridge sought to imprint his
own style on the subject by the selection of unusual viewpoints and
the disposition of figures in the landscape. Sensitive to the
requirements of artistic landscape style, he at times printed-in the
clouds from separate negatives to satisfy critics who found the
contrast between foreground and sky too great, but he also devised a
more Authentically photographic method—the sky shade—a shutterlike
device that blocked the amount of blue light reaching the plate. As
has been noted, cloud studies, similar to this group by Muybridge,
were made by photographers everywhere during this period, in part to
redress the problem of an empty upper portion of the image and in
part because of the photographers' fascination with the
ever-changing formations observable in the atmosphere. Muybridge,
whose deep interest in ephemeral atmospheric effects was perhaps
inspired by association with Bierstadt in 1872, also made a number
of remarkable pictures in 1875 of smoke and mistfilled latent
volcanoes in Guatemala.
EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE. A Study of Clouds, c. 1869.
Albumen stereographs. Bancroft Library, University of California,
EADWEARD MUTBRIDGE. Volcano Quetzeltenango, Guatemala, 1875.
Albumen print. Department of Special Collections, Stanford
University Library, Palo Alto, Cal.
Timothy O'Sullivan, a former Civil
War photographer who became part of Clarence King's 40th Parallel
Survey in 1867, was exceptionally fitted by nature and experience on
the battlefield for the organizational and expressive demands of
expedition photography. O'Sullivan photographed the volcanic
formations of desolate areas, among them Pyramid Lake, with an
accuracy— thie rocks were photographed in varying light conditions—
that reflected King's absorption with geological theory. His images
surpass scientific documentation, however, and create an unworldly
sense of the primeval, of an untamed landscape of extraordinary
beauty. Furthermore, by his choice of vantage point he was able to
evoke the vastness and silence of this remote area in intrinsically
photographic terms without resorting to the conventions of landscape
painting. The work of William Bell, O'Sullivan's replacement on the
Wheeler Survey of 1871-72, reveals a sensitivity to the dramatic
qualities inherent in inanimate substances; his Hieroglyphic Pass,
Opposite Parowan is also unusual in its absence of atmosphere or
sense of scale.
TIMOTHY O'SUIXFVAN. Tufa Domes, Pyramid Lake, 1867.
Albumen print. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
WILLIAM BELL. Utah Series No. 10, Hieroglyphic Pass, Opposite
Parowan, Utah, 1872.
Albumen print. Art, Prints and Photograph Division, New York Public
Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.
In 1871, an expedition down the
Colorado River, headed by John Wesley Powell, included E. O. Beaman,
an eastern landscape photographer, whose image of a magnificent and
lonely mountain pass. The Heart of Lodore, Green River, is given
scale and a touch of humanity by die inclusion of a small seated
figure. John K. Hillcrs learned photographic techniques from Beaman,
whom he eventually replaced; his view of Marble Canyon, Shinumo
Altar, a place that he characterized as "the gloomiest I have ever
been in—not a bird in it," displays imaginative as well as technical
skill. A similar capacity to both document and infuse life into
obdurate substances can be seen in Hanging Rock, Foot of Echo
Canyon, Utah, taken by Andrew Joseph Russell, a former painter and
Civil War photographer, while he was documenting the construction of
the Union Pacific Railroad.
E. O. BEAMAN. The Heart of Lodore, Green River, 1871.
Albumen print. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
JOHN K. HILLERS. Marble Canyon, Sbinumo Altar, 1872.
Albumen print. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
William Henry Jackson, employed for
eight years on the western survey headed by geologist Ferdinand V.
Hayden, was in a privileged position to evolve from journey-man
photographer to camera artist of stature. That survey (pi. no. 155),
begun in 1870 in the Uintas Mountains and expanded in the following
years to embrace the Grand Canyon and the Yellowstone River,
included artists San-ford R. Gifford and Thomas Moran, whose
landscape paintings helped shape Hayden's and Jackson's pictorial
expectations. The close relationship that developed between Jackson
and Moran enabled the photographer to refine his vision, even to the
point of setting up his camera in positions scouted by Moran, who
seen in Jackson's view of Hot Springs on the Gardiner River, Upper
WILLIAM HENRY JACKSON. Members of the Hayden Survey, 1870.
Albumen print. National Archives, Washington, DC.
WILLIAM HENRY JACKSON. Hot Springs on the Gardiner River, Upper
Basin (Thomas Moran Standing), 1871.
One-half of an albumen stereograph. International Museum of
Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, N.Y.
Unlike the fate of the photographs
made for France's Missions helioffraphiques, American survey images
were seen by a large public. In addition to satisfying the voracious
appetite of publishers for marketable landscape stereographs, they
also were presented in albums and as lantern slides to members of
Congress and other influential people to drum up support for funding
civilian scientific expeditions and creating national parklands. For
example, besides the sketches that Moran made available to Scribners
Magazine in support of Hayden's campaign for a Yellowstone National
Park, Jackson printed up albums of Yellowstone Scenic Wonders to
convince the United States Congress of the distinctive grandeur of
the scenery. In later years, Jackson established a successful
commercial enterprise in western images, but it is his work of the
mid-'70s, inspired by the land itself and by the artistic example of
Moran. that is most compelling.
At about the same time that western
survey photography was getting under way, photographers were also
included on expeditions to Greenland, organized by Isaac Hayes, and
to Labrador, sponsored by the painter William Bradford. John L.
Dunrnore and George Critcherson, of Black's Boston studio, worked
with the painter to photograph icebergs and glacial seas, providing
plates for Brad-ford's publication The Arctic Regions as well as
material for his intensely colored Romantic seascapes. Besides
recording the forms of icebergs, the incisive reflections and sharp
contours of Sailing Ships in an Ice Field), for example, suggest the
sparkling sharpness of the polar climate. Photography of the polar
regions continued into what has been called the heroic period of
Polar exploration, with expeditions led by Amundsen, Mawson, Peary,
and Scott in the early years of the 20th century, and it is not
surprising that some of these later images, among them.Aw Iceberg in
Midsummer, Antarctica by British photographer Herbert Ponting, made
between 1910 and 1913 while accompanying Scott to Antarctica.,
should recall the freshness of vision that characterized the hest
views of the western wilderness.
JOHN L. DUNMORE and GEORGE CRITCHERSON. Sailing Ships in an Ice
Albumen print. International Museum of Photography at George Eastman
House, Rochester, N.Y.
HERBERT PONTING. An Iceberg in Midsummer, Antarctica, 1910-13.
Carbon print. Original Fine Arts Society Edition print from the
Antarctic Divisions Historical Print Collection,
University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia.
Influenced by westward movements in
the United States and by the discovery of gold in British Columbia,
the Province of Canada funded an expedition in 1858 to what is now
Manitoba; although images made by staff photographer Humphrey Lloyd
Hime, a partner in a Toronto engineering firm, were concerned mainly
with inhabitants of the region, the few rather poor landscapes
indicate the nature of the problems of expedition photography at
this early date. Hime noted that to make adequate topographical
pictures he required better equipment, pure water, and, most
important, more time for taking and processing than expedition
leaders were willing to spend. Other Canadian surveys made in
connection with railroad routes or border disputes also employed
photographers, most of whom produced documents that are more
interesting as sociological information than as evocations of the
Among the few Canadians to imbue
scenic images with a sense of atmosphere were Alexander Henderson
and William Notman, the best-known commercial photographer in
Canada. Henderson, a latecomer to photography and a well-to-do
amateur, may have been influenced by English landscape photography
with which he was familiar through his membership in the Stereoscope
Exchange Club. But Spring Flood on the St. Lawrence of 1865 also
seems close in spirit to the idyllic outlook of the American Hudson
ALEXANDER HENDERSON. Spring Flood on the St. Lawrence, 1865.
Albumen print. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ralph GreenhilJ
Surveys had provided an effective
structure for the documentation of the West, but during the 1880s
their functions, including photography, were taken over by the newly
established United States Geological Survey and the Bureau of
Ethnology. While areas of the West continued to attract individual
photographers, most of the images made in frontier studios or in the
field during the last quarter of the century consisted of
documentation of new settlers or of native tribespeople and their
customs, with landscape a byproduct of these concerns. Furthermore,
as the nation moved into high gear industrially, the natural
landscape no longer was seen as a symbol of transcendent national
Scenic views made during the 1880s,
after the gelatin dry plate had begun to supplant collodion,
embodied varied attitudes toward nature. Many landscapists on both
sides of the Atlantic were influenced by the ideas of Naturalism, an
attitude that celebrated the ordinary and unspectacular both in
landscape and social activity. Some Americans, among them George
Barker, continued their romance with the magnificence of native
scenery, but a different sensibility is apparent in images such as
Barker's Moonlight on the St. Johns River—one suggestive of the end
of an era rather than the onset of a period of promise. Barker was
nationally renowned for views of Niagara Falls, in which rock and
water spray are invested with spectacular drama rather than with the
noble clarity that had characterized earlier images. Another
landscapist of the period, Henry Hamilton Bennett, proprietor of a
commercial studio in Kilbourn, Wisconsin, domesticated the
wilderness photograph in his views of picnicking and boating parties
on the Wisconsin Dells, an area that formerly had been famed for its
wilderness of glorious valleys and lofty perpendicular rocks.
The flowering of landscape and
scenic views during the eras of the calotype and collodion was
partly the result of the general urge in all industrialized
societies to measure, describe, and picture the physical substances
of all things on earth and in the heavens. It was partly a reaction
to urbanization—an attempt to preserve nature's beauty. The
compelling power of many of these images also flows in a measure
from the difficulty of the enterprise. Whether in the Alps,
Himalayas, or Rockies, on the Colorado, Nile, or Yangtze, the
photographer had to be profoundly committed to the quest for scenic
images before embarking on an arduous journey, with the result that
many images embody this passion and resolve. After 1880, the ease
and convenience first of the gelatin dry plate, and then of the
roll-film camera, made landscape photographers out of all who could
afford film and camera, and led to an inundation of banal scenic
images that often were, in Bourne's words, "little bits, pasted in a
GEORGE BARKER. Moonlight on the St. Johns River, 1886.
Albumen print. Library' of Congress, Washington, D.C.
HENRY HAMILTON BENNETT. Sugar Bowl with Rowboat, Wisconsin Dells, c.
1889. Albumen print.
Gustave Le Gray
Gustave Le Gray combined the
imaginative curiosity and skill of both artist and scientist. While
still a student in the studio of the academic salon painter Paul
Dclaroche, he became aware of photography but did not involve
himself in the new medium until the end of the 1840s. His inability
to survive as a painter in the overcrowded art field of Second
Empire France kindled an enthusiasm for working with die paper
negative. A strong interest in the chemistry of paint, applied now
to the problems of the calotype, led him to perfect in 1849 the dry
waxed-paper process that came to be utilized, at least briefly, by
most of the major figures in mid- 19th-century French photography.
Although Le Gray also had worked out a collodion process at the same
time, he was uninterested in glass at first and did not publish
either discovery until 1851, when they appeared in his publication
Nouvcau Traite theorique et pratique de photographic sur papier et
sur verve (New Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Photography on
Paper and Glass), by which time Archer already had made the first
public disclosure of a collodion method.
Gustave Le Gray. Pius IX's Railroad Car, 1859
The instructor of many artists and
intellectuals eager to learn photography, including Du Camp, Fcnton,
Le Secq, Marville, and Negre, Le Gray was held in uniformly high
esteem by his contemporaries for his ability to use light
suggestively. He was invited to participate in important
photographic projects, among mem the Missions heliqgraphiques, where
he photographed by himself as well as with O. Mestral, and in 1856
he was asked to provide a reportage on the newly established
Imperial Army camp at Chalons. Enshrouded in mist and surrounded by
silent, empty terrain, the groups of soldiers in these images
suggest an unworldly convocation, a vision that accorded with the
emperor's almost religious regard for this military encampment. On
his own, Le Gray made artistic calotype photographs in the Barbizon
tradition at Fontainblcau forest in 1849 and five years later, in
collodion, of the movement of clouds and sea at Sete (Cette), and at
Dieppe where he recorded Napoleon Ill's naval tleet. These images,
exhibited repeatedly, were highly acclaimed, inviting a first prize
at the 1855 Exposition Universelle.
In view of these successes, Le
Gray's withdrawal from die photographic scene after 1858 may seem
difficult to understand, but his situation reveals some of the
problems confronting photographers in France in the 19th century.
Lacking independent means, Le Gray was able to support himself by
commercial photography—portraiture, technical illustration,
reproductions of artwork—and indulge his high standards through the
generosity of a patron, die Comte de Brigcs. However, as the medium
itself became more competitive and commercial, and the count's
patron-age ended, Le Gray found himself more interested in problems
of light and pictorial organization than in making salable views
that "were got up in a style that renders them a fit ornament for
any drawing room." What his friend Nadar characterized as poor
business sense was more probably Le Gray's reluctance to accept
prevailing marketplace standards; in any event, he left family and
associates and traveled to Italy, Malta, and finally Egypt, where he
finished his career as professor of design in a polytechnic
The acclaim accorded Le Gray was
for the exceptional quality of his salt and albumen prints as well
as for his innovative vision. His technical mastery of gold-chloride
toning, which permitted the revelation of details buried in the
deepest shadows, derived from a conception of printing as an
integral aspect of an entire process by which die photographer
transforms nature into art.
Gustave Le Gray. Sailing Ship, 1857
Gustave Le Gray (1820–1884) is
known as the most important French photographer of the nineteenth
century because of his technical innovations in the still new medium
of photography, his role as the teacher of other noted
photographers, and the extraordinary imagination he brought to
picture making.The Getty-Le Gray
Le Gray was originally trained as a painter, studying under Paul
Delaroche, but crossed over to the new medium of photography in the
early years of its development. He was more than just a photographer
he expanded this new medium with his technical inventions. One of
the most defining is that of the waxed-paper negative. This
invention he developed and perfected in France around 1849 as stated
in A World History Of Photography by Naomi Rosenblum.A World History
of Photography Le Gray had also worked out a collodion process at
the same time, but did not publish either discovery until 1851. This
resulted in the collodion technology being accredited to Frederick
Scott Archer who discovered his process in 1850 and then published
it in 1851.
Later in life Le Gray expanded his horizons by touring the
Mediterranean with the writer Alexandre Dumas, père. Le Gray then
carried on to Lebanon and ending his journeys in Egypt where he
became a professor of drawing. He died in 1884 in Cairo.
Timothy O'Suilivan came to
landscape photography after four years of experience photographing
behind the lines and on the batlefields of the Civil War. A former
assistant in Mathew Brady's New York studio, in 1861 he had joined
the group known as "Brady's Photographic Corps," working with
Alexander Gardner. Because Brady refused to credit die work of
individual photographers, Gardner, taking O'Sullivan along,
established his own Washington firm to publish war views. War images
taken by O'Sullivan arc wide-ranging in subject and direct in their
message, including among them the weariness of inaction and
continual waiting, and the horror of fields of the dead.
After the war, O'Suluvan, faced
with the dullness of commercial studio work, discovered an optimum
use for his energies and experience as a photographer on the survey
teams that were being organized under civilian or militanry
leadership to document wilderness areas west of the Mississippi.
Departing from Nevada City with 9 x 12 inch and stereograph cameras,
125 glass plates, darkroom equip-ment, and chemicals, for more than
two vears he explored the strange and inhospitable regions along the
40th Parallel with a group headed by the eminent geologist Clarence
King. Following a brief period with the Darien Survey to the Isthmus
of Panama, where bodi the humid atmosphere and the densely foliated
terrain made photography difficult, he found another position on a
western survey. As Weston Nacf has pointed out photography on die
Geological Surveys West of the 100th Meridian, as the expedition
commanded by Lieutenant George M. Wheeler of the Army Corps of
Engineers was called, "was not so much a scientific tool as it was a
means of publicizing the Survey's accomplishments in the hopes of
persuading Congress to fund military rather than civilian
expeditions in the future."
O'Sullivarfs purpose in joining
this team was more likely personal than political in diat he was
allowed by Wheeler to be his own master, in charge of portions of
the expedition, and dius did not have to take orders from
geologists. Involved in the dramatic if not scientifically
defensible exploit of attempting to ascend the Colorado River
through the Grand Canvon, Wheeler noted O'Sullivan's professionalism
in producing negatives in the face of all obstacles, including a
near drowning. Following another brief period with King, O'Sullivan
joined a Wheelerlcd survey to the Southwest where he documented not
only geological formations but members of the pueblo and
rock-dwelling tribes in the region of the Canyon dc Chelle. After
1875, O'Sullivan's problematical hcakh and the winding down of
survey photography put an end to further involvement with die
western landscape. Following a brief period in 1879 as photographer
in the newly established United States Geological Survey, of which
King was first director, and a position with the Treasury Department
in Washington, O'Sullivan was forced by his tubercular condition to
resign; he died a year later in Staten Island at age forty-two.
O'Sullivan approached western
landscape with the documentarian's respect for the integrity of
visible evidence and the camera artist's understanding of how to
isolate and frame decisive forms and structures in nature. Beyond
this, he had the capacity to invest inert matter with a sense of
mysterious silence and timelessness; these qualities may be even
more arresting to the modern eye than they were to his
contemporaries, who regarded his images as accurate records rather
than evocative statements.
TIMOTHY H. O'SULLIVAN. Black Canyon, Colorado River, from Camp 8,
Looking above, 1871
Timothy H. O'Sullivan (c. 1840 –
January 14, 1882) was a photographer prominent for his work on
subjects in the American Civil War and the Western United States.
"The Harvest of Death": Union dead on the battlefield at Gettysburg,
Pennsylvania, photographed July 5–6, 1863, by Timothy
O'SullivanO'Sullivan was born in New York City. As a teenager, he
was employed by Mathew Brady. When the Civil War began in early
1861, he was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Union Army and,
over the next year, fought in Beaufort, Port Royal, Fort Walker, and
After being honorably discharged, he rejoined Brady's team. In July
1862, O'Sullivan followed the campaign of Maj. Gen. John Pope's
Northern Virginia Campaign. By joining Alexander Gardner's studio,
he had his forty-four photographs published in the first Civil War
photographs collection, Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the
War. In July 1863, he created his most famous photograph, "The
Harvest of Death," depicting dead soldiers from the Battle of
Gettysburg. In 1864, following Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's trail, he
photographed the Siege of Petersburg before briefly heading to North
Carolina to document the siege of Fort Fisher. That brought him to
the Appomattox Court House, the site of Robert E. Lee's surrender in
From 1867 to 1869, he was official photographer on the United States
Geological Exploration of the 40th Parallel under Clarence King. The
expedition began at Virginia City, Nevada, where he photographed the
mines, and worked eastward. His job was to photograph the West to
attract settlers. O'Sullivan's pictures were among the first to
record the prehistoric ruins, Navajo weavers, and pueblo villages of
the Southwest. In contrast to the Asian and Eastern landscape
fronts, the subject matter he focused on was a new concept. It
involved taking pictures of nature as an untamed, un-industrialized
land without the use of landscape painting conventions. O'Sullivan
combined science and art, making exact records of extraordinary
In 1870 he joined a survey team in Panama to survey for a canal
across the isthmus. From 1871 to 1874 he returned to the
southwestern United States to join Lt. George M. Wheeler's survey
west of the One Hundredth Meridian. He faced starvation on the
Colorado River when some of expedition's boats capsized; few of the
300 negatives he took survived the trip back East. He spent the last
years of his short life in Washington, D.C., as official
photographer for the U.S. Geological Survey and the Treasury
O'Sullivan died in Staten Island of tuberculosis at age 42.
TIMOTHY H. O'SULLIVAN. Ancient Ruins in the Canyon de Chelle, New
Albumen print-International Museum of Photography at George Eastman
House, Rochester, N.Y.
The Western Landscape— Natural and
This selection of early views of
the American West suggests the dual role that the photograph played
after the Civil War in the exploration and development of this
relatively unknown part of the continent. Taken between the years
1867 and 1878, these pictures are the work of five among the
numerous photographers who either accompanied geological survey
teams, were employed by railroad companies, or were professionals
with established studios in West Coast cities. Beyond their roles as
documenters, all were inspired by the spectacular scale and breadth
of the pristine wilderness landscape, by its strange rock
formations, its steamy geysers, and its sparkling waterfalls. Using
the cumbersome wet-plate process, they sought out the vantage points
that might make it possible to recreate for Easterners a sense of
the immensity and primordial silence of the region.
A number of the same photographers
were called upon to document the building of rail lines, bridges,
water sluices, and urban centers. Eadweard Muybridge produced a
panorama of the young and growing metropolis of San Francisco, from
which four of the thirteen mammoth (18 x 24 inch) plates are
reproduced, showing cable cars, churches, and public and commercial
buildings as well as dwellings laid out in a well-defined street
system. As the frontier moved westward and industrialization began
to change the character of the landscape, Americans increasingly
turned to the photograph as a means of both celebrating technology
and of expressing reverence for the landscape being threatened by
CARLETON E. WATKINS. Magenta Flume, Nevada Co., California, c. 1871.
Albumen print. Baltimore Museum of Art; Purchase with exchange funds
Edward Joseph Gallagher III Memorial Collection; and Partial Gift of
George H. Dalsheimer, Baltimore.
EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE. Panorama of San Francisco from California Street
Albumen prints. Bancroft Library, University of California,
CARLETON E. WATKINS. Multnomah Fall Cascade, Columbia River, 1867.
Albumen print. Gilman Paper Company, New York.
FRANK J. HAYNES. Geyser, Yellowstone, Wyoming, c. 1885.
Albumen print. Daniel Wolf, Inc., New York.
ANDREW f. RUSSELL. Hanging Rock, Foot of Echo Canyon, Utah, 1867-68.
Albumen print. Western Americana Collection.
WILLIAM HENRY JACKSON. Grand Canyon of the Colorado, 1870-80.
Albumen print. Prnate collection.