Francis Frith (1822-98)
'The Rameseum of El-Kurneh, Thebes'
Museum no. Ph.5-1983
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Throughout the 1850s and 1860s photographs of historical and topographical sights were highly desirable and Frith was one of the most successful commercial photographers to cater to this demand. His pioneering photographic expeditions to the Near East proved very popular. The detail afforded by wet collodian negatives, as used for this image, produced prints that British publishers readily marketed. This photograph captures the monumentality of Egyptian landscape and architecture as well as the dramatic play of light on sand and stone.
The Art Journal (1 April 1858) published extensive commentary on Frith's contributions to the 1858 exhibition: 'The real value of photography is, however, most strikingly shown in the productions of F. Frith, jun. His subjects in Palestine and Egypt impress us with a consciousness of truth and power which no other Art-production could produce. The sands of the desert have for centuries been grinding those gigantic columns and colossal statues; and there, before us, is the abraded stone, every mark being preserved to tell how slowly, but yet how surely, the dust of the earth is overcoming the greatest works of man. All those photographs by Mr. F. Frith should be very carefully studied.'