Roger Fenton was born in Lancashire County England on March 28, 1819. After a privileged childhood, Mr. Fenton attended Londonís University College where he studied mathematics and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1840.
Three yearsí later, Mr. Fenton married Grace Maynard, and together they became the parents of a son and five daughters. Sadly, the coupleís oldest daughter and son died in infancy.
Mr. Fenton was a student of historical painter Charles Lucy, and traveled to Paris to learn the daguerreotype process in Paul Delarocheís studio. When Mr. Delaroche closed his studio, Mr. Fenton returned to London where he decided to pursue a more financially lucrative career in the legal profession. Despite becoming a solicitor, Mr. Fenton continued experimenting with photography, and became one of the founding members of the Calotype Society in 1847. The Royal Academy presented exhibitions of Mr. Fentonís work in 1849 and 1851.
With Charles Lucy and several other photographic artists of the day, Mr. Fenton founded the North London School of Drawing and Modeling in 1850. During the 1850s, Mr. Fenton became the honorary secretary of a committee that vigorously promoted the art of photography.
In 1851, Mr. Fenton entered the Societe Heliographique in Paris to study photography, and was introduced to the waxed-paper negative process by the innovative French photographer Gustave Le Gray. The following summer, Mr. Fenton photographed the architecture and landscape of Great Britain, and was particularly mesmerized by the English and Welsh scenery.
By the fall of 1852, Mr. Fenton was ready to embrace new challenges, and so he went to Russia with engineer Charles Vignoles to record the construction of the Dnieper River Bridge in Kiev. At around this time, Mr. Fenton experimented with stereoscopic photography and employed the waxed-paper negative process to photograph the many domes that are prominent in the architecture of St. Petersburg and Moscow. One of Mr. Fentonís most impressive early photographs is Domes of the Cathedral of the Reseraction, Kremlin.
For the rest of this decade, Mr. Fentonís reputation as a photographer grew. In 1853, Mr. Fenton was named the British Museumís official photographer, and the following year, he photographed classical sculpture and Assyrian tablets. During an 1854 Photographic Society exhibition, Mr. Fenton was introduced to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and was invited to photograph the royal family in the spring of that year.
During the height of the Crimean War, Mr. Fenton was commissioned to travel to Crimea to document the conflict. In December 1854, Mr. Fenton began a six-month expedition that produced more 300 photographs of the region, the officers, and the soldiers. He became known as the first war photographer, but his images were later criticized for bearing little resemblance to the landscapes ravaged by carnage and disease so vividly described in his letters to his wife.
Witnessing the ugliness of combat made Mr. Fenton nostalgic for the landscapes of his homeland, and so he thereafter focused his lenses on streams, abbeys, and agrarian scenes. Mr. Fenton also became an accomplished still-life photographer.
By the late 1860s, Mr. Fentonís health began rapidly declining many believe due to the cholera he contracted while covering the Crimean War. Forced to sell his photographic equipment and negatives, Mr. Fenton returned to law and served as a barrister until his 1865 retirement.
Roger Fenton died at the age of fifty on August 8, 1869. Collections of his photographs can be found at the Royal Photographic Society in Bath, England; Londonís Victoria and Albert Museum; the National Army Museum; and at the University of Texasí Harry Hunt Ransom Humanities Research Center.
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