Sunday, 27 November 2016

Research: Felice Beato

In the first section of this course we are invited to reflect on some of the names mentioned as early practitioners of documentary. Most of them I have heard of and researched on other OCA courses, such as as Timothy O'Sullivan and William Henry Jackson.

I was though drawn for no particular reason to the work of Felice Beato [1832 - 1909] who documented the Crimean War with James Robertson, following the departure of Roger Fenton, another photographer mention in the notes.

Beato, moved on to China in 1860 on his own, documenting the Opium War, arriving in Hong Kong in March of that year, before heading off north to Tailen Bay, Pehtang and Peking. The images taken were certainly some of the earliest of China, quite possibly the first.

The images are quite graphic and document the Opium War in traditional documentary style but also have an air of creativity about them. The images form a narrative recreation of the battles in which forts are breached with Chinese soldiers defeated lying strewn unceremoniously.

As so much time has passed these images play an important role in the preservation of history and a provoking medium as an insight to what may have happened.

Interior of Pehtang Fort 1860

The Entrance of North Fort 21st August 1860

An-Ting Gate of Pekin 1861 occupied by allied forces.

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