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The Rameseum of El-Kurneh, Thebes

Photographer: Francis Frith (1822 - 98)

'The Ramesseum of El-Kurneh, Thebes (first view), 1857'

Producing the mammoth 20x16 inch plates for what must be amongst the largest photographically-illustrated book produced in the 19th century was a major logistical feat, involving the transportation of a huge camera, along with stocks of heavy glass and chemicals. 

Although Frith was occasionally able to make use of rock-cut tombs to prepare and process these large negatives, he also brought with him a specially built ‘wicker-work carriage on wheels, which was, in fact, both camera and developing room, and occasionally sleeping room’. 

Following in the footsteps of French photographers like Maxime du Camp and Félix Teynard, Francis Frith became the most commercially successful purveyor of photographic views of the Middle East. Frith was deeply religious and his documentation of Egypt and the Holy Land was clearly based on his belief in the evidential value of photography in illustrating the birthplace of Christianity.

Frith’s firm became one of the largest suppliers of topographical views on a worldwide scale, surviving as a family firm until 1960.

Albumen print from a wet collodion negative

From Francis Frith, Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: a series of twenty photographic views by F. Frith. London [1860]

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