Monday’s Photography Inspiration – Francis Bedford

Francis Bedford was an English photographer born in 1815 in 1815. He began his career as an architectural draughtsman and lithographer, before taking up photography in the early 1850s. He was one of England’s most prominent landscape photographers and the first to accompany a royal tour.

He helped to found the Royal Photographic Society in 1853. In 1854, at Marlborough House Queen Victoria commissioned him to photograph objects in the royal collection. In 1857, she also commissioned him to photograph her husband Prince Albert’s hometown of Coburg, Germany. There followed several more royal commissions, and his series of stereographs of England and Wales have come to be regarded as some of the finest landscape works of their time.

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) South West View of the Parthenon [on the Acropolis, Athens, Greece] 31 May 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94). South West View of the Parthenon [on the Acropolis, Athens, Greece]. 31 May 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94). Portions of the Frieze of the Parthenon [Athens, Greece]. 31 May 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) Acropolis and Temple of Jupiter Olympus [Olympieion, Athens] 31 May 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) The Temple of Jupiter from the north west [Baalbek, Lebanon] 3 May 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) The Temple of Jupiter from the north west [Baalbek, Lebanon] 3 May 1862

Following the death of Prince Albert in 1861 his eldest son, Prince Albert (later King Edward VII), invited Bedford to photograph his extensive tour of Greece and the Middle East, the first royal tour to be photographically documented.

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) Damascus – from a minaret in the Christian quarter [Syria] 30 Apr 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) Damascus – from a minaret in the Christian quarter [Syria] 30 Apr 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) Tower of Galata and part of Turkish burial ground [Istanbul, Turkey] 21 May 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) Tower of Galata and part of Turkish burial ground [Istanbul, Turkey] 21 May 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) Mosque of Mehemet Ali [Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Cairo] 8 March 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) Mosque of Mehemet Ali [Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Cairo] 8 March 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) West Front of the Mosque of Omar [Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem] 1 Apr 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) West Front of the Mosque of Omar [Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem] 1 Apr 1862

For much of his career Bedford tended towards photography as an art form, painting in clouds, enhancing fine detail with pencil or brushes, and using tissue paper to darken negatives to improve lighting, but by the late 1870s, he was an advocate of simplicity. Between 1851 and 1894 he produced nearly 9,000 wet collodion negatives and albumen prints, making him one of the most prolific landscape photographers of his time.

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) The Temple of the Sun and Temple of Jupiter [Baalbek, Lebanon] 4 May 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) The Temple of the Sun and Temple of Jupiter [Baalbek, Lebanon] 4 May 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) The Colossi on the plain of Thebes [Colossi of Memnon] 17 Mar 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) The Colossi on the plain of Thebes [Colossi of Memnon] 17 Mar 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) The Sphinx, the Great Pyramid and two lesser Pyramids, Ghizeh, Egypt 4 March 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) The Sphinx, the Great Pyramid and two lesser Pyramids, Ghizeh, Egypt 4 March 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) The Great Propylon of the Temple at Edfou [Pylon of the Temple of Horus, Edfu] 14 Mar 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) The Great Propylon of the Temple at Edfou [Pylon of the Temple of Horus, Edfu] 14 Mar 1862

He died on 15 May 1894 and is buried in Highgate Cemetery, close to the grave of another celebrated Victorian photographer, Henry White.

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) Fountain in the Court of the Mosque of Mehemet Ali [Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Cairo] 3 Mar 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) Fountain in the Court of the Mosque of Mehemet Ali [Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Cairo] 3 Mar 1862

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) The Mount of Olives and Garden of Gethsemane [Jerusalem] 2 Apr 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) The Mount of Olives and Garden of Gethsemane [Jerusalem] 2 Apr 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) Damascus – from a minaret in the Christian quarter [Syria] 30 Apr 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) Damascus – from a minaret in the Christian quarter [Syria] 30 Apr 1862

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) The Street called Straight, Damascus 30 Apr 1862
Francis Bedford (1815-94) The Street called Straight, Damascus 30 Apr 1862

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