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Glass plate negatives

Albert and Victoria’s collection of glass plate negatives show photographers’ working methods

Crimea War veterans

In March 1855, Roger Fenton travelled to war-torn Crimea to capture the aftermath of the main battles and create portraits of the troops. While Fenton was provided with letters of introduction from Prince Albert and subsequently numerous of his photographs taken in the region were acquired by Queen Victoria, his trip was not undertaken at the behest of the royal couple. This would explain the absence of his Crimean negatives in the Royal Collection.

However, the Queen Victoria’s active interest into the welfare of Crimean War officers and soldiers prompted her to commission a series of portraits of veterans, the negatives of which are shown below. These photographs were taken shortly after the troops returned to Britain, often following a meeting with the queen at Buckingham Palace or at the military hospital at Chatham. Among the photographers who undertook the work were Thomas Richard Williams (1825-71), Joseph Cundall (1818-95) and Robert Howlett (1831-58) of the Photographic Institution, as well as William Bambridge (1820-79). The latter’s earliest portraits of wounded men predate Fenton’s arrival in the Crimea.