Entrance, Tomb of the Kings
Vintage albumen print ca.1890 by A[ntoine] Beato, unmounted, with pencil notation on reverse "L'entrée de tombeaux des rois". Dimensions 10 x 7.5 inches (25x29 cm). ( Inventory# fd22 )
With Beato's work we seem to enter a closing period of the professional travel print in Egypt. Subjected to more demanding conditions of travel and less perfected photographic processes, early photographers experienced the Near East as both exotic and ancient, and their photographs contain a sense of remote distance as well as mystery as they reproduce ageless monuments, timeless desert landscapes and a vivid Eastern-Islamic culture. While competent, Beato's photographs seem completely devoid of any such qualities. Despite the large format and albumen process, their bland factuality and complete lack of elevating spirit make us think of a tourist clicking more or less at random with a snapshot camera -- and doubtless it was against a growing army of snapshot-camera-bearing tourists that Beato's images were intended to compete, and to whose sensibilities they were expected to appeal.
Images and text copyright © 2001-2014 by Christopher Wahren Fine Photographs