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Francis Frith in Egypt and Palestine: A Victorian Photographer Abroad

Overview

In 1856, the English photographer Francis Frith set out on the first of three tours of Egypt and the Holy Lands. Traveling up the Nile and then on to the Sinai, Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon, Frith systematically crafted exquisite pictures of ruins, landscapes, and legendary sites. He then published his views in England and America in a variety of formats, becoming something of a celebrity in photographic circles. This book, the first to place Frith's Egyptian and Levantine images in cultural context, reveals the...

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Overview

In 1856, the English photographer Francis Frith set out on the first of three tours of Egypt and the Holy Lands. Traveling up the Nile and then on to the Sinai, Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon, Frith systematically crafted exquisite pictures of ruins, landscapes, and legendary sites. He then published his views in England and America in a variety of formats, becoming something of a celebrity in photographic circles. This book, the first to place Frith's Egyptian and Levantine images in cultural context, reveals the distinct meanings these ostensibly "topographic" pictures held for the photographer and his Victorian audience.

A Quaker by birth and an entrepreneur by nature, Frith brought to his photographic projects a sense of mission: to revive and confirm the stories of the Bible, while offering the region to armchair travelers as a seamless Oriental milieu of Romantic reverie. Francis Frith in Egypt and Palestine narrates the political, intellectual, and social concerns that make Frith representative of England's encounter with the East in the nineteenth century. Historian of photography Douglas R. Nickel brings a sophisticated interdisciplinary approach to bear on the subject in order to expose the complexity of Frith's image-making, setting the photographs against a Victorian backdrop of religious debate, imperialist thought, Romantic philosophy, and Pre-Raphaelite aesthetics.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
Stating that Frith's photographs . . . would be better regarded if photographic history were taught as a history of ideas rather than a history of art practices or scientific discoveries, Nickel presents nearly 200 pages of carefully considered and well-written discussion about the cultural and intellectual backgrounds of Frith's time and their resonances within Frith's own life and in his 1850s photographs. . . . The reproductions are excellent and close to the originals.
Journal of Religion
This volume is a significant addition to scholarship of religious publishing and economic history that deserves faithful reading.
— Candy Gunther Brown
The Art Newspaper
Nickel fully establishes a coherent and relevant context for an evaluation of Frith's life and work. A lucid narrative and studied selection of works anchor the volume.
— Gareth Harris
The Art Newspaper - Gareth Harris
Nickel fully establishes a coherent and relevant context for an evaluation of Frith's life and work. A lucid narrative and studied selection of works anchor the volume.
Journal of Religion - Candy Gunther Brown
This volume is a significant addition to scholarship of religious publishing and economic history that deserves faithful reading.
From the Publisher

Winner of the 2004 British Art Book Prize, Historians of British Art

"While considering the content of the pictures and the writing that accompanied many of them, Nickel discusses the social forces that surrounded and shaped Frith and his photography, such as his Quaker upbringing and the close relationship between science and religion in Victorian England. Exemplary documentation and well-written descriptions of Frith's photographic processes are also remarkable."--Library Journal

"Stating that Frith's photographs . . . would be better regarded if photographic history were taught as a history of ideas rather than a history of art practices or scientific discoveries, Nickel presents nearly 200 pages of carefully considered and well-written discussion about the cultural and intellectual backgrounds of Frith's time and their resonances within Frith's own life and in his 1850s photographs. . . . The reproductions are excellent and close to the originals."--Choice

"Nickel fully establishes a coherent and relevant context for an evaluation of Frith's life and work. A lucid narrative and studied selection of works anchor the volume."--Gareth Harris, The Art Newspaper

"This volume is a significant addition to scholarship of religious publishing and economic history that deserves faithful reading."--Candy Gunther Brown, Journal of Religion

Library Journal
The director of the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Nickel (Dreaming in Pictures: The Photography of Lewis Carroll) here provides a historical analysis of the 19th-century English photographer Francis Frith, with a focus on pictures taken during his visits to historic locations in Egypt and the Holy Land. Frith was a successful grocer who retired early to become a photographer and writer of photo-illustrated books. Previously published material on Frith portrays him as a topographical photographer whose work served the purpose of documenting sites. This volume looks beyond the surface of Frith's pictures to reveal a more complete view of the photographer and his work. While considering the content of the pictures and the writing that accompanied many of them, Nickel discusses the social forces that surrounded and shaped Frith and his photography, such as his Quaker upbringing and the close relationship between science and religion in Victorian England. Exemplary documentation and well-written descriptions of Frith's photographic processes are also remarkable. With 75 duotones and ten halftones, this book is highly recommended for academic libraries and specialized photography collections.-Eric Linderman, East Cleveland P.L., OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691115153
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 12/22/2003
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 10.12 (w) x 11.26 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Table of Contents

Maps of Frith's Travels 6
Introduction: A Victorian Photographer Abroad 9
1 The Automatic Machinery of Circumstance 21
2 Spirit Facts: Biography as History 33
3 Egypt, the Greatest Sensation 43
4 Photographed and Described 67
5 A Fulcrum for My Lever 85
6 Religion as Science, Science as Philosophy 97
7 A Christian Positivist 111
8 The View from Above 137
9 Self-Portrait in Eastern Costume 149
Conclusion: A Sermon in Stones 171
Chronology 175
App.: Negative Numbers and Plate Titles 177
Notes 180
Selected Bibliography 224
Acknowledgments 232
Index 233
Photography Credits 239
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Recipe

"This work leads not only to a better understanding of Frith, but also to a new perspective on the intellectual and cultural history of nineteenth-century photographic practice."—Mary Warner Marien, author of Photography: A Culture History

"Situating the photographic works of Francis Frith within the context of his culture, particularly the religious crises and attendant debates in England at mid-nineteenth century, Nickel's book brings to light considerable primary material on Frith that is a significant contribution to the field of photographic history."—Julia Ballerini, contributor, Imag(in)ing Race and Place in Colonialist Photography and Film

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