Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Szathmary - Crimean Combat Photographer

Carol Pop de Szathmari
Not just in the interests of balance, this site needs to include mention of a man who may be regarded as the world first known combat photographer – Carol Pop de Szathmari (also Szathmáry Pap Károly). Born 11 January 1818 in Cluj, Kolozsvar (modern day Romania) this painter and traveler began working with portrait photography before the war, having developed several ranking contacts through his portraiture. At age 36, he took a specially fitted wagon for developing his photographs, arriving in the Crimea in 1853 to capture the first photographic records of the war – later exhibited at the World Exhibition in 1855.

Unlike Fenton, Szathmari photographed both sides of the early war - recording images of the Russian and Turkish combatants. His works were exhibited, gaining several awards and he was widely reproduced in magazines and print. It is regrettable that most of his works and none of his albums have survived into the 21st century. What few images remain can be found in the British Royal Family’s Royal Collection available for viewing on-line.

The first image shown (left) is from the Royal Collection and depicts Don Cossacks taken in 1854.

The three soldiers depicted next (right) are Ottoman officers - a  Captain, Colonel and Major taken also in 1854.

We are told of the hazards Szathmary encountered as he crossed the lines to expand his portfolio. Near Oltenitza Szathmary had a close encounter with Turkish artillery who it is understood thought him a Russian spy and took some thankfully poorly ranged shots.

Turkish artillery limber and crew (left) taken 1854.

 Turkish artillery officers (right) 1854.

Three pictures can also be found at the International Museum of Photography and Film, George Eastman House (Rochester, New York): "The Russian lancer's encampment in Craiova", "The Bombardment of Silistra" and the portrait of Lieutenant General Soimonoff.

Szathmary was the first certified photographer in Romania and one of the first ten photographers in Europe. He became the official photographer of the Romanian ruler Alexandru Ioan Cuza and of the first king of Romania, Carol I of Romania. Most of his life he worked and lived in Bucharest, where he died in 1887 aged 69.

1 comment:

  1. What a fabulous post, I was totally unaware of this chap.