War Photographs From the Crimean War to the First World War

AnonymousShell Explosions© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
From the 1850s onwards, photographers made their apparition near battlefields, where they were progressively to replace history painters, as testified in the Musée d'Orsay collections by pictures of three major conflicts of the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Commissioned by Queen Victoria to make a photographic report on the Crimean War, Roger Fenton arrived in Sebastopol in the spring 1855. For both technical reasons and ideological motivations, the pictures he collected in his album Incidents of Camp Life avoided the violence of battle and focused on portraits of the men at war and on scenes of camp life. A few months later, Jean-Charles Langlois, a history painter, came on the scene together with a young photographer, Léon Eugène Méhédin, in order to make preparatory shots for his Panorama of Sebastopol, which was to be presented to the public from 1860 to 1865 in a rotunda built on the Rond Point des Champs Elysées by Gabriel Davioud.

During the American Civil War, George N. Barnard, who followed the march of the troops led by General Sherman on Atlanta in 1864, focused on the destruction and desolation caused by the conflict. With World War I, the use of photography was to go through profound changes. In particular, aerial photograph appeared, while soldiers and prisoners used their own cameras to record the events they were living.


Joëlle Bolloch, researcher, Musée d'Orsay

With the participation of Thalassa / France3


Exhibition catalogue
War Photography
Bolloch Joëlle
5 continents / Musée d'Orsay
€ 10

29 June - 12 September 2004
Musée d'Orsay

Permanent gallery of photography ground floor, on the side of the Rue de Lille

Enlarge font size Reduce font size Tip a friend Print