Explore Egyptian monuments photographed by Francis Frith
Everything was harder in the 19th century. There were no cars, no internet, and travel was reserved for the privileged.
Nowadays, people have enormous power in their pockets. The mighty smartphone is packed with features that makes everything easier and faster.
When Francis Frith embarked on his journey to the Middle East, he wasn’t so lucky. Even though innovations were happening regularly, photography was very much still in its infancy at the time.
About ten years earlier, William Henry Fox Talbot had found that he could develop photos on sensitised paper. But Frith needed something more robust for the hot and dusty climates in Egypt.
So he had to take a massive camera, heavy sheets of glass negatives, and bottle of chemicals to develop photos using the collodion process. Furthermore, he only had 15 minutes to develop his plates before the emulsion dried so it was a high stress situation in the searing heat.
Frith was a major proponent of photography. It’s important to remember that the Art world was dismissive of the medium at the time. But Frith disagreed with their sentiment.
He said photography could accomplish “far beyond anything that is in the power of the most accomplished artist to transfer to his canvas.”
It’s hard to disagree. One of the biggest advantages of photography is that it can capture a scene objectively; you can see another country exactly as you would with your own eyes.
At a time, the industrial era was shrinking the world. Steam trains suddenly gave us to power to travel vast distances.
Of course, not everyone could afford to. But it made people dream. Armchair travellers wanted to see photographic proof of the Holy Land, Egypt, Asia and all sorts of faraway places.
And what a sight they were! Can you imagine living in Victorian Britain and gawping at an enormous sphinx or pyramid?
Over 170 years on, these photos can still be seen with incredible detail. Frith’s composition has been so carefully crafted that many of the techniques are still used by photographers today. This is a rare glimpse back in time where you can look at Egypt as the Victorians did.
This collection of images is a result of Francis Frith’s time in Egypt which are available exclusively on Alamy. The images are taken from Victorian glass slides which reproduced Frith’s original photograph dating back to the 1850s.