Francis Frith, 'Sphinx'

Francis Frith, 'Sphinx'

Francis Frith (1822-98)
Albumen print from collodion-on-glass negative
Width 49.2 cm x height 38.5 cm
Museum no. PH.744-1987

The Photograph

Francis Frith was one of the most successful commercial photographers from the 1860s onwards. Throughout the 1850s and 1860s photographs of historical and topographical sights were highly desirable and Francis Frith was one of the most successful commercial photographers to cater for this demand.

The detail of the wet collodion negative, apparent in this image, produced prints which British publishers readily marketed. This photograph was produced from one of Frith's large negatives (16x20 inches) and captures the monumentality of Egyptian landscape and architecture, the dramatic light and its play on sand and stone.

The Photographer

Francis Frith became a photographer in 1856 and in that year embarked on his first tour of Egypt. He was using wet collodion negatives, which proved difficult to keep wet in the intense heat of Egypt.

He returned the following year and two publishing companies (Negretti & Zambra and Agnews) issued many of his photographs from Egypt. The photographs received wide critical acclaim and Frith was commissioned by Negretti & Zambra to photograph in Egypt, Syria and Palestine which were published on his return in 1858.

He returned again the following year. Frith opened a printing studio in Surrey in 1859, reprinting his photographs to meet the great demand for his images of the Near East. He went on to take and commission photographs of topographical views of Britain and the continent. Frith died in 1898, his family continuing the printing business until 1968.


This photograph can be found in Print Room Box 13b.