The Prince of Wales' Tour of the Mideast in 1862: Narratives of Tourism, Photography, and Nation

Saturday, January 8, 2011: 11:30 AM
Suffolk Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Stephanie Spencer , North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
Although best known for his photographs from this tour, Francis Bedford’s photographs of Egypt and the Holy Land are atypical.  A notable success at integrating art and commercial photography, Bedford took on a new role as official photographer of a royal tour, where he not only had to adjust to novel terrain but also accommodate the interests of a patron – who just happened to be heir to the British throne.  Although publicized as educational, the photographs reflect British political interests in the Druze-Maronite conflict of 1860, the Crimean War, and the transfer of the Ionian Islands to Greece.  These sites were not on the typical tourist route; they were visited and photographed because of their relevance to Britain.
            In addition to an unusually strong political component, Bedford’s photographs use geography and architecture to represent the culture and history of a region unfamiliar to an English audience, providing a rationale for exploration and documentation. The European photographer as authority figure marked the monuments worthy of recording, simultaneously recovering and defining the nature of the past.  He created or at the least influenced how the foreign country and culture would be known by the home audience, through the narratives implied in his photographic representations.
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