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The exhibition

Sir John Miller Adye (1819-1900)©

Roger Fenton (1819–69) was the first photographer to document a war for public consumption. From March 1855, Fenton spent four months photographing the people and the terrain affected by the Crimean War, fought between the allied nations of Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire against Russia.

Fenton’s time in the Crimea was relatively short given the war lasted over two years (October 1853–March 1856) but his photographs captured, for the first time, the chaos and disorder of a warzone, and showed the Victorian public portraits of soldiers in the field, directly affected by battle. Although Fenton was fulfilling a commercial commission, he allowed himself to respond emotionally in his work and this is perhaps why his photographs continue to represent the Crimean War more effectively than any other visual record of the conflict.

This exhibition presents Fenton’s work within the wider context of the war, alongside other contemporary artists, photographers and writers also in the Crimea at that time. We begin with two sections which, through Fenton’s portraits, introduce some of the key individuals and events that occurred prior to Fenton’s arrival in the Crimea.

Subsequently we examine Fenton’s work in more detail, before considering the significant role played by the royal family in focusing the attention of the British public on the impact of war and the returning wounded veterans.

George Charles Bingham, 3rd Earl of Lucan (1800-88)
The Crimean War, 1853-6

The conflict arose from concerns over Russian expansion

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
The Battle of Inkerman 5 November 1854

The war saw huge casualties, leading to health reform

Fenton's Crimean Commission: 8 March - June 1855

Fenton was commissioned by Agnew's of Manchester

Photograph of Balaklava taken from the Russian Church, showing the upper harbour and the Church of Kadikoi in the distance. The Russian Church is in the foreground to the right. The timber dome and roof are exposed and the doors and windows are filled wit
Balaklava - the British base

Fenton arrived at the British base in March 1855

Photograph of the dry docks in Sevastopol after they were destroyed by the allied forces. The photograph shows piles of rubble with the harbour behind. In the middle of the rubble a tall mast still stands. One ship can be seen in the water to the left, sl
After the war

Fenton returned to the UK in 1855

The Queen inspecting wounded Coldstream Guardsmen in the Hall of Buckingham Palace, 22 February 1855
The Royal Family and the Crimean War

Queen Victoria kept close links with the troops fighting on her behalf

Fenton's photographs in the Royal Collection

The Royal Collection has 428 Crimean photographs by Roger Fenton

Image of Don McCullin
In Conversation: Shadows of War with Sir Don McCullin

In this film, Sir Don McCullin discusses his work and experiences in the field

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.