From Robert Fenton’s combat photographs to Robert Capa’s war photography

Roger Fenton


(1819-1869) British photographer, very famous for being the first war photographer for taking pictures of the Crimean war between 1853 and 1856 which was between Russia and Turkey, but it also involved Britain and France.

Roger Fenton studied law and art, but decided to travel around Europe with his camera. Fenton met the Daguerreotype style in Paris which was available to all and was very amazed about the freedom that French photographers had because of it.

His photos of his trips were amongst the first to be seen in England and that’s how he became very popular. He became the official photographer of the British Museum, and also of Queen Victoria’s family.

In 1855 a very important journalist, William Russell, reported that the Crimean war was fatal, not because of the fights themselves, but because soldiers were dying of freezing cold and diseases, the medical facilities were not adequate, and that British soldiers didn’t even have proper uniforms to fight this war. The British Government hired Fenton to take the “beautiful” side of the war where nothing happened, where there was no dead bodies, and groups of soldiers posing for the camera. Therefore, there were no action shots; all these pictures where more a kind of propaganda and to prove Russell wrong, Fenton must take shots of the well-being of soldiers, pictures of dead bodies were not very marketable. His pictures were all biased.

Many question if he could even be called a war photographer or if he was on the same path as Mathew Brady.

war by Fenton

war by Fenton


war... by Fenton

war... by Fenton

Mathew Brady



“My greatest aim has been to advance the art of photography and to make it what I think I have a great and truthful medium of history.”

– Mathew B. Brady

Mattew Brady was born in Warren County, New York and was the father of photojournalism. According to; Brady was the greatest American photo historian of the 19th century and undoubtedly Abraham Lincoln favourite photographer. Mattew Brady was the first to undertake the photographic documentation of the American Civil war.

Brady, for instance, was one of the first, if not the first, to use a large skylight as part of his photographic equipment.

It is not only his mastery of technical details that causes Brady’s name to be remembered to this day. He conceived another venture the year after he first became a professional daguerreotypist. This idea, which was to remain a guiding principle with him for most of his long career, was the project of collecting the portraits of all the distinguished individuals whom he could induce to sit before his camera. With this end in view, he entered public competition to attract attention, advertised widely and began the publication of lithographed portraits of notables. In 1847, he opened a temporary gallery in Washington and as a result became by 1850 the leading photographer of the times.

Brady’s reputation was still further enhanced when he went abroad in 1851 to exhibit at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London, the first international competition among daguerreotypists and photographers. Only three medals were awarded daguerreotypists in the Great Exhibition and all three went to Americans. Brady was awarded one for a collection of forty-eight portraits. While abroad in 1851; Brady became acquainted with the paper and wet plate processes, the latter having just been introduced. On his return home, he soon put into practice the result of his observations and was one of the first professionals to use the wet plate process.

Civil War Work

With the outbreak of Civil War, Brady’s absorbing passion determined his career. Although he had already achieved considerable fame, a spirit within him forced him to the rough-and-ready life of the road and the camp. The self-appointed pictorial historian of his age, he decided to record by means of the camera the most important event in American history during the nineteenth century.

civil war by Brady

civil war by Brady

Over a hundred thousand dollars was spent in the venture, from which Brady had only a small return; but the publication of the ten volume work, The Photographic History of the Civil War, constitutes a memorial that will give the name of Mathew B. Brady to posterity.

After The War

At the close of the war, Brady fell on evil days. His large investment in the Civil War photographs and their poor return were followed by a national depression in which Brady lost nearly all his possessions. After the war he continued to practice in Washington, at first with some success. But as the years passed, his fortunes rapidly receded. His place as the “fashionable” photographer of the day had been taken by Napoleon Sarony and J. M. Mora, and Brady was never able to regain it.

When he died in New York City on January 15, 1896, he was alone and destitute. Only the collection of a sum of money by a few friends saved from burial in potter’s field. Mathew B. Brady was one of the greatest men in photographic history.

civil war by Brady

civil war by Brady

Alexander Gardner

Alexander Gardner was a famous Photographer of American Civil War photography. He was born in Paisley, Renfew, Scotland. He moved to United States to start a newspaper  call the Glasgow Sentinel. He was inspired by Mathew Brady and thus he start his photography as a passion. He was popular for capturing the visages of soldiers leaving for war. He was really famous for photographing the Battle of Antietam in september 1862. Gardner was well know by his Photography documentary of the American Civil War.He also documented Lincoln’s funeral after his assassination. Therefore, Gardner had made a sketchbook among with other famous photographers. Moreover, he did photograph Native Americans who came to Washington to discuss treaties during the Civil War.The controversy came after a century later, when some of the photographs from Gardner were considered manipulated by him, one of them is his Civil War photos were the soldiers corpses were moving and the weapon into a dramatic position that make this a really strong shoot. 

By Alexander Gardner, Antietam
By Alexander Garner, Lincoln Portrait
By Alexander Garner, Native Americans Portrait

Robert Capa



“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” By Robert Capa

Endre Friedmann, best known as Robert Capa, was born in October 22, 1913.  He first achieved fame as a war correspondent in the Spanish Civil War. He is one of the greatest war photographers. In World War II he covered much of the heaviest fighting in Africa, Sicily, and Italy for Life magazine, and his photographs of the Normandy Invasion became some of the most memorable of the war. The used of a new small and fast 35mm camera helped make Capa’s bold style photography possible. On the other side not all of his work was war-related; he also liked to make time to do portraits of several of his friends which include: Hemingway, Cartier-Bresson, and Picasso, among other luminaries. In 1954 Capa volunteered to photograph the French Indochina War for Life and was killed by a land mine on May 25, 1954. Shortly after his death a Gold Medal Award was establish in 1955 to reward exceptional professional merit.

Capa photographed the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II across Europe, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and the First Indochina War.

Some of his famous works include: Death in the Making (1937), Slightly out of Focus (1947), Images of War (1964), Children of War, Children of Peace (1991), and Robert Capa: Photographs (1996).

War, by Capa

War, by Capa

War, by Capa

War, by Capa

Fenton, Brady, Gardner and Capa all had very similar work. They were all photojournalists and photographed the war and were famously known for doing so, as they were also known for shooting famous people in their time; the royal family, Lincoln and Edgar Allen Poe. Each of them used art in a way to capture the war. These photographers all share some similarities,but there are a number of differences between them and Capa. While Fenton, Brady and Gardner were all more optimistic and captured portraits of the soldiers and the campsites, whereas Capa actually captured action shots during the war. Some people didn’t really consider the others as “war photographers” because they didn’t capture action of what was happening in the war, but just posed portraits of the soldiers in their uniforms and on the grounds. Capa was more about the realism and wanted to show what the war was actually like. What Capa wanted was to make the viewer feel as though they were in the moment.



Wendy Torres

Aisha Addo

Melanie Olt

Maria Paula Rubiano

Tessa North Lewis


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