Roger Fenton’s photos at the Getty Center

Daily Sundial

The Getty Center presents “All the Mighty World: the Photographs of Roger Fenton, 1852-1860,” an exhibit of about 90 of the Victorian photographer’s images of English architecture, still lifes, Orientalist subjects, and the Crimean War.

As you enter the first of the exhibition galleries located in the West Pavilion, you see Fenton’s famous photography of English architecture.

The “Lichfied Cathedral” photograph shows the decorative complexities of the structure’s arch. A clever signature move of Fenton’s is to implement people in his photographs. In this case, he shot people in the doorways of the cathedral to not only show the scale of the buildings, but to show them being used.

“Glastonbury Abbey, the Arches of the North Aisle” (1858) is a fabulous image showing the ruined architecture of the abbey being submerged by nature, which is invading its remains.

A beautiful and intriguing view of the natural enchantment of an open river is shown in his “Up the Hodder, new Stonyhurst” (1859) photograph. Fenton gives a wide view that looks upstream, and clearly depicts the ripples in the water.

In his London studio, Fenton shot photographs in which he represented life in the Islamic world.

In “Pasha and Bayadere” (1858), he used less-than- authentic attire, and vaguely near-eastern props. Interestingly enough, Fenton casts himself as Pasha.

This photograph is charming evidence of the Victorian imagination, even though critics at the time found the depictions to be truthful.

One of the most beautiful photographs was one which one quick glance simply could not capture the entirety of its vivid detail. “The Double Bridge on the Machno” (1857) is a picture of a big tree hanging over a stream. The silhouettes of moss and rock are visible in the stream. Watery reflections and sharp contrast of light and darkness make for an enchanting image.

The international loan exhibition will be on display through April 24. It was organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Gordon Baldwin, associate curator of photographs will discuss the life and travels of Fenton in his lecture “Traveling with Fenton,” on Sunday March 20 at 4 p.m. in the Getty Center’s Harold M. Williams Auditorium.