This site covers some of the history of Roger Fenton - this is just a snapshot but we hope to put more up very soon.
Roger Fenton, who was born in 1819 in Lancashire, is widely regarded as the most popular and influential British photographer from the 1850's. He began his art career in the 1840's with paintings, after leaving behind a career in law. In 1851, he attended the Great Exhibition and was inspired by the photographs that were on display. Realizing that photography was the latest art form, he decided to head to Paris, where he learned the craft under the tutelage of Paris' lead photographer. Fenton proved to be a quick study and was already creating successful images by February 1852.
Fenton spent the next ten years dedicated to the field of photography, both producing it and advocating for it. He is credited with helping to prove to a British audience that photography was a worthwhile art, comparable to painting and drawing in importance. The Royal Photographic Society, which is still in operation today, was his brainchild and has become a vital piece of his legacy. Through his work with the Royal Photographic Society he helped put together public photography exhibitions. He was also an early crusader for photography copyright laws.
Fenton's first photographic attempts, in the beginning of 1852, often centered around self portraits. He also captured images of the area surrounding Regent's Park. His career began to blossom that autumn, though, when he took a trip to Russia. Originally intending to photograph a suspension bridge that his friend Charles Blacker Vignoles was building, he quickly decided to branch out and photograph several landmarks throughout Moscow, Kief and St. Petersburg. A few short months later he returned to London with a full portfolio of Russian images which were then exhibited in 1853. His photographs were the first that the British public had ever seen of Russia and were met with much enthusiasm. While the British public was taking in these photographs, Fenton had turned his lens to the forests, rivers and pathways of Yorkshire, along with its medieval abbeys.
In 1853 he was retained as the official photographer of the British Museum. This was a very notable position for many reasons, chief of which is that he was the first photographer to ever be retained in such a capacity by any museum in the world. From 1854 to 1856 he cataloged over 8,000 items for the British Museum, employed many different lighting techniques to properly illuminate his subjects.
When the Crimean War erupted in 1854 it brought with it a unique opportunity for early practitioners of the photographic arts. Fenton was selected in 1855 by Thomas Agnew, a Manchester publisher, to document the war that had begun due to tension brought on by the expansion of Russia. Fenton entered the fray as an observer, taking with him two assistants and five cameras, in addition to other necessary supplies. Rather than document the actual bloodshed, as a modern war photographer would, he focused instead on capturing images of the camps, the port of Balaklava, officers from the French and British armies, and the Croats, Zouaves and Turks. By September of 1855 he had not only returned to London with his images but has also exhibited a number of them.
After the war, he returned to his more standard fare of landscapes and architecture. He was also invited to Scotland in the autumn of 1856 to photograph the royal family at their castle in Balmoral. While in Scotland he photographed notable monuments and worked on his lighting techniques. Rather than return home to London he then moved on to Wales, where he continued his work by capturing images of the surrounding rivers and landscapes.
Fenton's British architectural photographic campaigns, which took place almost every year from 1852 to 1860, produced such compelling results that he's still regarded as the most impressive of all of England's architectural photographers. He focused not just on the buildings themselves, but also on lighting and angles. He also commonly photographed specific elements of the buildings in a way which allowed viewers to take in the beauty within the finer architectural details.
In 1859, Fenton exhibited some work which was far ahead of its time; the photographs depicted scenes with Oriental themes, including men dressed in turbans and robes, smoking water pipes and sitting on Turkish rugs. These photographs were not taken in the Orient, however, and were not intended as documentaries of life there. Instead they were staged in London, making them a very early example of a costumed photo shoot.
From 1858 to 1860, Fenton captured a wide selection of houses, landscapes and castles. He also began shooting still lifes of items such as a table full of fruit. His goal with these still lifes was to prove that photography could meet, and exceed, the art of painting. During this same time frame, his infant son passed away and many believe that his last works are tinged with sadness.
In 1862, after 10 very successful and influential years, Fenton sold all of his equipment and negatives, stepped down from his post at the Royal Photographic Society and returned to practicing law. His contributions to the field of photography continue to have a positive impact on the industry to this day.
Fenton died at the age of 50 which was above average for this period of history and he is sure to have eaten a relatively healthy diet apart from maybe when he was in the Crimea. These days we have better knowledge of health and nutrition and regimes such as Dave Ruel's anabolic cooking make it easy to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.