Special Report

When the Shooting Started

A century and a half ago, Britain’s Roger Fenton pioneered the art of war photography

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Fenton's Crimean war pictures were greatly admired for their authenticity, but it's possible that he staged one scene. Fenton made two versions of Valley. In the most familiar version, cannon shot are chaotically strewn about the road, but in the other, the shot appear along the side of it. Did he, or someone else, clear the road for a better view or easier passage or, alternatively, place the cannon shot in the road for better effect? There is no way to know, but the earliest photograph that speaks directly of death in war just might have been a setup, arranged by the photographer to symbolize the shattering losses in the Crimea.

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