Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Cairo to Constantinople: Early Photographs of the Middle East

An exhibition in Edinburgh (London in the Autumn) and talks on BBC Radio 4 by John McCarthy about the early work of Victorian photographer Francis Bedford.

Egypt

In 1862 Albert, Prince of Wales, toured the Middle East. At the time it was still predominantly controlled by the Ottoman Empire. As he travelled, his photographer Francis Bedford kept a detailed photographic record of the trip. In this series John McCarthy revisits the scenes of Bedford’s photographs – Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Greece. He considers how the immediate physical, political and social landscape has evolved during the intervening 150 years.

Some of Bedford’s photographs are of widely known locations – the Pyramids at Giza, the Mount of Olives, the temples at Baalbek, the Acropolis – others are of remote hilltops and apparently random buildings, scenes without any obvious significance. Both however hold fascinating and unexpected tales and insight.

The series will reflect on the rise and fall of empires – the Ottoman, British and French all play their part in these stories. They are now all gone, but the world’s powers still seek to influence the politics of the region.

In each episode John McCarthy focusses on two of Bedford’s original photographs, revisiting the sites and taking his own pictures of the same scenes today.

In the opening programme, John travels to Egypt to consider pictures of the Prince’s party gathered in front of the Pyramids of Khufu and Khafre at Giza, and a broader Cairo picture taken from a key minaret in the city.

This radio series coincides with a major exhibition of Bedford’s photographs by the Royal Collection, currently showing at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh….Go here for the John McCarthy Radio Broadcast

Cairo to Constantinople

Friday, 08 March 2013 to Sunday, 21 July 2013  The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
In 1862, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) was sent on a four-month educational tour of the Middle East, accompanied by the British photographer Francis Bedford (1815-94). This exhibition documents his journey through the work of Bedford, the first photographer to travel on a royal tour. It explores the cultural and political significance Victorian Britain attached to the region, which was then as complex and contested as it remains today. 

The tour took the Prince to Egypt, Palestine and the Holy Land, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece. He met rulers, politicians and other notable figures, and travelled in a manner unassociated with royalty – by horse and camping out in tents. On the royal party’s return to England, Francis Bedford’s work was displayed in what was described as ‘the most important photographic exhibition that has hitherto been placed before the public’. See all the details of the exhibition here

c2c_microsite13Francis Bedford

Francis Bedford (1816-1894) Bibliography

…..Bedford began to photograph as an amateur sometime around 1852, with the intent to aid himself in his lithographic work. His book, The Treasury of Ornamental Art, has been described as “probably the first important English work where photography was called into play to assist the draughtsman.”
But Bedford also began to pursue the creative aspects of photography as well.
The 1850s was a period of enormous growth for photography in England. Frederick Scott Archer had just perfected the wet-collodion process and photography, though still difficult to use, suddenly became both more accessible and far more useful in a wide variety of ways. Archaeologists, anthropologists, botanists, geologists, art and architectural historians, scientists and learned men of every stripe were realizing that photography not only facilitated their studies, but that accurate, exact, and exactly duplicatable visual records made it possible to expand the dimensions of their respective disciplines beyond levels impossible to reach before photography’s invention.read more here

great-britian-box-one-image0826

 

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One response to “Cairo to Constantinople: Early Photographs of the Middle East

  1. Alex Ramsay May 8, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    And your old alumnus Norman McBeath was speaking and showing his work in connection with this same exhibition (http://bit.ly/11SYwXl) – small world!

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