With the arrival of tour parties organised by Thomas Cook in the early 1860s and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 interest in Ancient Egypt surged. Suddenly photographs of temples, statues and other archaeological relics became big business for a number of photographers working to satisfy the demands of sightseers.
Photography at this stage was still very much in the hands of professional photographers who worked in difficult conditions. Apart from problems obtaining chemicals and photographic supplies the collodion could dry before the plate had been exposed or plates once exposed could crack in the extreme heat, and sand has never been the photographers friend.
Photographs of ancient Egypt in the collection
Many excellent examples of these photographers work are scattered throughout the collection. Examples of work by the Beato Brothers are to be found in photo albums 4551 (d) Casgliad T. I. Ellis Collection 8 and 426 (c) Temples of the Thebaid Baalbek. This latter album containing 28 examples by Beato and Dumas.
Other photographers represented include the Zangaki brothers, two Greek photographers about whom little is known. Apart from photographing the splendours of Ancient Egypt they also took many photographs of everyday life in Ancient Egypt. While of course posed and emphasising the exoticism of Egypt they do provide an insight into life at the time. Others, such as the image of the crocodile were little more than curios.
Photo album 301 Souvenirs D’Orient contains 100 photographs by Felix Bonfils (1831-1885) Hippolyte Arnoux, a French photographer who documented the construction of the canal is also represented.
Many of the photos of Egypt from this time are mounted in albums in tandem with commercial views of India. These albums were often compiled by the minor gentry who went out to India as part of the British Raj, often as army officers. Photo album 407 (c) Llyfr Ffoto Pryse-Saunders Album 3 is a prime example of this genre.