Roger Fenton (1819-69)
'Head of Homer'
Salted paper print
Museum no. 40:810
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Fenton was one of the most important British photographers of the 19th century. A practicing barrister, he studied painting before taking up photography in the early 1850s. In 1852 he went to Russia to photograph Kiev, St Petersburg and Moscow, and was later the official photographer of the Crimean War. In 1853 he was part of a group that founded the London Photographic Society. He also photographed the royal family, made sumptuous still lifes and landscapes, and turned his camera to English gothic architecture.
Also in 1853 Fenton was commissioned by the British Museum to document a range of the objects in its collection, including its sculpture holdings. Similar to the way in which Charles Thurston Thompson acted as official photographer to the V&A, Fenton was in service at the British Museum. The efforts of these early photographers enabled the institutions with which they were affiliated to better catalogue their collections and to share information on them. After a spectacular ten-year career, Fenton gave up photography and returned to law in 1862.