Oct 22, 2007

The Pyramids of Saqqara, from the Northeast

Egypt, Sinai and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views, with Descriptions by Mrs. Poole and Reginald Stuart Poole

The Pyramids of Saqqara, from the Northeast


Francis Frith William Mackenzie

(British, 1822–1898)

Albumen print from wet collodion negative

Image: 38.2 x 47.7 cm (15 1/16 x 18 3/4 in.); Matted: 61 x 76.2 cm (24 x 30 in.)

Gift of Charles Isaacs in honor of Louis and Martha Isaacs 1996.19



Frith was the first photographer in Egypt to successfully use the wet collodion process, introduced in 1851. Its glass plate negatives yielded sharper, more detailed images than paper ones. He even created mammoth plate prints, as this size is called, which required equally large glass plate negatives. Pursuing the process’s exacting chemistry in Egypt’s scorching sunlight was trying. Frith sometimes sought refuge in tombs for the cool air and darkness to process his plates. “Pushing myself backwards upon my hands and knees, into a damp slimy rock-tomb . . . I prepared my pictures by candlelight in one of the interior chambers. . . . The floor was covered . . . with an impalpable ill flavored dust, which rose in clouds as we moved; from the roof were suspended groups of fetid bats.”

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