Focus: Francis Frith Photographs

Francis Frith (who was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire in 1822 and died in Cannes, France in 1898) made several trips to Egypt and the Near East between 1856 and 1859, using the new medium of photography to record landscapes and monuments not then as familiar to a British audience as they are today.

Frith was one of the first to experiment with glass negatives. The photographs displayed here are not enlarged, but the actual size of the glass plates from which they were printed. This allowed him to capture both the expanse and the detail of Eastern subjects. Each photograph took a few minutes to create, eliminating temporary and moving things. Frith prepared and fixed the photographs in a tent or ancient tomb, despite the danger of using explosive materials such as liquid ether and gun cotton in the desert heat.

The glass negatives enabled Frith to print his pictures many times and publish them for a wide audience. An astute entrepreneur as well as an adventurer, he established his own business, Francis Frith & Co., the first specialist photographic publisher which photographed every town and village in Britain. The company would later form the basis for an archive of his and other early photographers’ work.

These photographs have been lent by the Wilson Centre for Photography.

This display has been devised by curator Carol Jacobi.

View the artworks in this display

See also

Tate Etc

Colossus of the camera: Francis Frith: Photographs at Tate Britain

Carol Jacobi

The spectacular images created by an Englishman that first revealed the sights along the Nile for those back home