Lecture Four

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The Grand Tour

Felice Beato


Photographs of the 19th century often now shows the limitations of the technology used, yet Felice Beato managed to successfully work within and even transcend those limitations. He predominantly produced albumen silver prints from wet collodion glass-plate negatives. Beyond aesthetic considerations, the long exposure times needed by this process must have been a further stimulus to Beato to frame and position the subjects of his photographs carefully. Apart from his portrait-making, he often posed local people in such a way as to set off the architectural or topographical subjects of his images, but otherwise people (and other moving objects) are sometimes rendered a blur or disappear altogether during the long exposures. Such blurs are a common feature of 19th century photographs.

Like other 19th century commercial photographers, Beato often made copy prints of his original photographs. The original would have been pinned to a stationary surface and then photographed, producing a second negative from which to make more prints. The pins used to hold the original in place are sometimes visible in copy prints. In spite of the limitations of this method, including the loss of detail and degradation of other picture elements, it was an effective and economical way to duplicate images.

Beato pioneered and refined the techniques of hand-colouring photographs and making panoramas. He may have started hand-colouring photographs at the suggestion of Wirgman or he may have seen the hand-coloured photographs made by partners Charles Parker and William Parke Andrew.[17] Whatever the inspiration, Beato's coloured landscapes are delicate and naturalistic and his coloured portraits, though more strongly coloured than the landscapes, are also excellent.[18] As well as providing views in colour, Beato worked to represent very large subjects in a way that gave a sense of their vastness. Throughout his career, Beato's work is marked by spectacular panoramas, which he produced by carefully making several contiguous exposures of a scene and then joining the resulting prints together, thereby re-creating the expansive view. The complete version of his panorama of Pehtang comprises nine photographs joined together almost seamlessly for a total length of more than 2.5 metres (8 ft).

The Grand Tour


War Photography

First War Photographs
Beato's photographs of the Second Opium War are the first to document a military campaign as it unfolded, doing so through a sequence of dated and related images. His photographs of the Taku Forts represent this approach on a reduced scale, forming a narrative recreation of a battle. The sequence of images shows the approach to the forts, the effects of bombardments on the exterior walls and fortifications and finally the devastation within the forts, including the bodies of dead Chinese soldiers. Interestingly, the photographs were not taken in this order as the photographs of dead Chinese had to be taken first before the bodies were removed; only then was Beato free to take the other views of the exterior and interior of the forts. In albums of the time these photographs are placed in such a way as to recreate the sequence of the battle.[15]

Beato's images of the Chinese dead — he never photographed British or French dead — and his manner of producing them particularly reveal the ideological aspects of his photojournalism. Dr. David F. Rennie, a member of the expedition, noted in his campaign memoir, “I walked round the ramparts on the West side. They were thickly strewn with dead — in the North-West angle thirteen were lying in one group around a gun. Signor Beato was there in great excitement, characterising the group as ‘beautiful’ and begging that it might not be interfered with until perpetuated by his photographic apparatus, which was done a few minutes afterwards…”.[16] The resultant photographs are a powerful representation of military triumph and British imperialist power, not least for the purchasers of his images: British soldiers, colonial administrators, merchants and tourists. Back in Britain Beato's images were used to justify the Opium (and other colonial) Wars and they shaped public awareness of the cultures that existed in the East.

His photographs represent the first substantial oeuvre of what came to be called photojournalism.

Matthew Brady

Roger Fenton

The Grand Tour

Francis Frith

Below: photograph documenting the Grand Tour by Francis Frith.


Below: photograph documenting the Grand Tour by Francis Frith.


Below: photograph documenting the Grand Tour by Francis Frith.


Below: photograph documenting the Grand Tour by Francis Frith.


John Beasely Greene

Below: photograph documenting Tombeau de la chrétienne [Tomb of the Christian Woman] 1856 by John Beasely Green.


**Below: photograph documenting Tombeau de la chrétienne [Tomb of the Christian Woman]


Maxime Du Camp

Below: photograph documenting the Grand Tour by Maxime Du Camp.


Below: photograph documenting the Grand Tour by Maxime Du Camp.


Below: photograph documenting the Grand Tour by Maxime Du Camp.


Below: photograph documenting the Grand Tour by Maxime Du Camp.



Julia Margaret Cameron


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