The art of photography opened new vistas to Europeans during the Victorian age. A popular topic was the state of Egyptian antiquities. English photographer Francis Frith was a highly popular photographer in the 1850s and 1860s, and cultivated a public image as a romantic adventurer. He made several trips to Egypt and the Holy Land, photographing the remnants of temples and statues for an eager audience back home.
The book featured here contains many of Frith’s photographs of Egypt in his trademark style, beautifully rendered with striking detail and clarity. In addition, however, the book is an example of another popular feature of early photography, the stereograph, or 3D image. The stereo effect was achieved by viewing two images taken slightly apart through a special viewer, in much the same way a modern day three dimensional film is produced. Often these images were distributed on cards, but they were also gathered into book form, as is the case with Frith. Many of these photographs could be obtained as cards, but by releasing them in a book a new experience was created, combining the novelty of the stereo image with context provided by a text. Early reviews of the book highlighted this combination.
Frith’s photographs of the Middle East established a romantic vision of the past, with crumbling ruins and humans, if they are present at all in the pictures, small and overwhelmed by their surroundings. The desert vistas are vast and come to life in the stereo views presented by Frith’s book. An early example of an “enhanced” visual presentation, Frith’s book remains compelling today for its glimpse of an already-changed world.