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The Valley of the Shadow of Death
Roger Fenton was sent to document the Crimean War by the British government. However, he avoided photographing combat scenes or views of the dead or wounded. Instead, most of his photos show officers posing in their uniforms. He doubtless wanted to avoid producing any pictures that might provoke criticism of the war back home. (Taking only flattering views of a subject is one way a photojournalist can introduce bias into their work -- though the concept of photojournalism had not yet evolved when Fenton was working.)

But one of Fenton's Crimean War images (top), which he titled "The Valley of the Shadow of Death," is considered a masterpiece of war photography. It shows a simple, but haunting view of a cannonball-strewn road near Sevastopol.

In 1981 historican Mark Haworth-Booth realized that Fenton had taken a second photograph of this scene (bottom), but in the second photograph there were no cannonballs on the road. Subsequent analysis has proven that this second, previously unnoticed photo was taken before the other. (Researchers have been able to identify rocks that rolled downhill in between the time Fenton took the first and second shot.) Which means that Fenton probably staged the scene, moving cannonballs from the ditch onto the road in order to create a more dramatic image.

Links and References
Roger Fenton Crimean War Photographs. Library of Congress.
Morris, E. (Sep 25, 2007). Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg? The New York Times.


All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.