Roger Fenton (1819-69)
'Hardships in the Camp'
Albumen print from a wet collodion negative
Width 15.8 cm x height 17.5 cm
Museum no. 64:847
Fenton gave his account of the difficult journeying conditions in the Crimea to the Photographic Society of London in November 1855. The large amount of equipment which the wet collodion process required was hard to manoeuvre in the rough terrain of the Crimea. Fenton experienced further difficulty during the summer months when the weather was hotter so that it was difficult to keep the collodion wet and the nitrate bath (for developing) in good working order. Fenton, however, produced up to 360 images of the Crimea. The images are mainly topographical views and portraits of the serving British Army.
This particular image shows three soldiers in the foreground at rest, eating and drinking. The image has a conventional composition but its significance is transformed by the knowledge of the event in which the scene takes place. The stillness of the image highlights the waiting and sense of impending action of the battlefield.
Over the ten years that he was a practising photographer, Roger Fenton produced images of a great breadth of subject matter, which reflected contemporary interests such as architecture, engineering, art and also the Crimean war.
Roger Fenton was instrumental in forming the Photographic Society of London in 1853 and was made honorary secretary. He was also an important figure in gaining photographers' protection under the copyright laws as artists in their own right. In March 1854 he was appointed the official photographer at the British Museum, employed to document the museum's collection.
Later in the same year he was approached by the Manchester publisher Thomas Agnew to be sent under semi-official patronage to the Crimea. The government wanted to obtain scenes from the battlefield and of the British Army and Agnew would gain some financial return in selling prints. The images, therefore, had to be informative, but also palatable to a British audience.
On his return Fenton began various other projects such as landscapes, still life and oriental studies. He retired from photography in 1862, returning to his career as a lawyer. It is possible that by 1862 he had achieved all the breadth and quality in his work that he wished.
This photograph can be found in Print Room Box 13.