The Crimean War
The Crimean War gave rise to the first examples of war photojournalism. In 1855, Queen Victoria sent British photographers Roger Fenton and then James Robertson to the scene of events. The official context of this Royal command and the constraints involved in what was a recent technique, did not allow the photographers a great deal of leeway in the choice of their subjects. Therefore, scenes of combats captured in motion or images of the seriously injured or dead cannot be found in their photographs. France, who had entered into the war on the side of the English against Russia, later sent artists to document the successes of the allied troops. The painter, Jean-Charles Langlois, accompanied by the photographer Léon Méhédin, was asked to paint a panorama of the taking of Fort Malakoff, and took a series of shots in preparation for the project. Henri Durand-Brager also took photographic plans of Sebastopol and the surrounding region with his assistant Lassimone. Using the negatives, he painted a set of canvases which Napoleon III bought for Versailles. He worked as a war correspondent for the newspaper, l'Illustration, and was dispatched from 1854 onwards by the French Admiralty, and began to use photography at the end of 1855.
All these photographers' war scenes may have been used as propaganda, but nevertheless, there are images in their work where empty expanses, destroyed fortifications and the absence of all forms of life make them more than simple historical accounts or isolated captured moments, giving them instead a fixed silence and a suggestive timelessness.