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Architecture and Topography

Photography, at its very beginning, required extremely long exposures, sometimes up to 30 minutes. This meant that still objects in full sunshine were the only possible candidates for the earlier photographers. Architecture and topographical views became therefore some of their favourite subjects, despite several technical issues.

Because of the long exposures, in fact, the camera was not able to capture moving objects, such as people or traffic along a busy road, and even the cloudiest sky invariably resulted overexposed, forming a plain, bright area, sometimes disturbing to the eye. Wind was another problem the photographer had to face, in particular when dealing with natural landscapes or gardens.

Architecture and topography, though, always remained dear subjects to photographers of all times, who often produced images which are not only artistically valuable but also extremely precious records from a historical point of view.

Photography was an extremely effective way to record the architecture and people of foreign places, often both geographically and culturally very far from Victorian England, such as the Near East as seen by the Prince of Wales during his tour in 1862. The camera also documented places closer to home, such as Coburg and Gotha, the homeland of Prince Albert. Queen Victoria had visited the area with him in 1845 and, some years later, she decided to recreate the tour with the help of photography. The commission was given to Francis Bedford, who travelled to Coburg in 1857 and to Gotha in 1858, following the Queen’s instructions. The result was two photograph albums which Queen Victoria presented to her husband as birthday gifts on those two consecutive years.

Windsor Castle was the subject chosen by Roger Fenton for a series of thirty-one photographic views he produced in 1860. Despite the full access to the grounds granted to him by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, Fenton chose conventional views of areas open to the public, which, filtered through his exceptional photographic vision, created superlative results. Fenton was a central figure in British photography between 1852 and 1862, drawing his contemporaries’ attention with the excellent quality of his prints and his virtuoso performances with the camera. In an article published in the Journal of the Photographic Society (21 May 1858) a critic wrote ‘No one can touch Fenton in landscape: he seems to be to photography what Turner was to painting.’

Roger Fenton (1819-69)

The Long Walk, Windsor

Arthur James Melhuish (1824-95)

Henry III Tower, Windsor Castle

Arthur James Melhuish (1824-95)

Thames Street, Windsor

Wilson & Hay (active c.1850-60)

The New Castle at Balmoral

George Washington Wilson (1823-93)

Balmoral Castle from the North West

Francis Bedford (1815-94)

Coburg Peasants at Rosenau, 1857

Francis Bedford (1815-94)

Coburg Peasants at Rosenau, 1857

Édouard Baldus (1813-89)

Gare de Paris (Est)

Édouard Baldus (1813-89)

Cathedrale d'Amiens

Édouard Baldus (1813-89)


Dr John Murray (1809-98)

The Musamman Burj, Agra Fort

Charles Clifford (1819-62)

Alberca Court, Granada, Spain

Charles Clifford (1819-62)

Door of the Giants, Zaragoza, Spain

Charles Clifford (1819-62)

Wedding group in Estremadura, Spain

William Lake Price (1810-96)

Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill

Alfred Rosling (1802-82)

St Paul's on a Misty Morning

Charles Thurston Thompson (1816-68)

Barracks, Boulogne

Attributed to Corporal Church, Royal Engineers (active 1850s)

Artillery Field Forge, Aldershot

Princess Victoria of Wales, 2nd daughter of Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom (1868-1935)

Lamplighter at Patcham

Queen Alexandra, consort of King Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom (1844-1925)

Off the Irish coast

Queen Alexandra, consort of King Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom (1844-1925)

Changing the Guard at Windsor Castle

Queen Alexandra, consort of King Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom (1844-1925)

Off the Coast of Scotland

William Russell Sedgfield (1826-1902)


William Lake Price (1810-96)


Charles Reid (1837-1929)

Landscape with sheep