Athena Review Image Archive  

Giza: The Pyramids (1858 photo)

The Pyramids at Giza (photo: Frith 1862). .

This early photograph of the pyramids at Giza was taken in 1858 by Francis Frith, and published four years later as part of a collection on Egypt and Jerusalem. At left is the pyramid of Menkaure, flanked by three smaller Queens' pyramids. The tallest of the pyramids, at center, is the pyramid of Cephren, retaining some of its limestone facing at the top. At right is the pyramid of Cheops (Khufu). All date from the 4th Dynasty

The figures in the foreground, including three seated men and a mule, and the  tiny figure of a grazing horse or donkey in the middle distance are typical scale devices of Frith's compositions, known for their typically high standards of clarity, focus, and depth of field. These he obtained with large format cameras, creating glass negatives using a calloidion process which had been developed by the French photographer Gustave le Gray in 1851.
Here a photographic plate is coated, exposed, and developed within the span of about fifteen minutes, requiring a portable darkroom.

The negatives were then used to make contact prints using the albumen silver method. Here cotton paper was coated with egg albumen and salt and treated with silver nitrate, to make the paper sensitive to ultraviolet light.

While demanding in execution, the depth and detail produced by these processes usually was much improved over those of earlier methods such the daguerrotype, or the calotype process used by du Camp 10 years earlier.


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