In the course of a single decade, from 1852 to 1862, Roger Fenton excelled in every genre of photography: majestic architectural views of England’s ruined abbeys and stately homes, Romantic depictions of the countryside, moving reportage of the Crimean War, intimate portraits of Queen Victoria and her family, Orientalist tableaux vivants, and astonishingly lush still lifes. As a photographer of architecture, he was without parallel among his countrymen. Working with large-format glass negatives, Fenton wedded perfect technique with an unerring ability to choose the precise vantage point and lighting conditions that would best render the smallest details of architecture, convey a sense of monumentality, and imbue his pictures with a Romantic spirit. Here, the decorative stonework of the principal doorway of Lichfield Cathedral contrasts (literally as well as figuratively) with the mysterious darkness within. At the joining of those two worlds—physical and spiritual—Fenton placed a priest and parishioner, not merely as a measure of scale but as illustration that the cathedral remains a living, functioning church.

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Roger Fenton, English, 1819–1869
Francis Frith & Co., British, founded 1859
Lichfield Cathedral, Central Doorway, West Porch
1858, printed 1863–1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 16 1/2 × 13 3/4 in. (41.9 × 34.9 cm) Sheet: 16 1/2 × 13 3/4 in. (41.9 × 34.9 cm) Mount: 26 3/8 × 21 in. (67 × 53.3 cm)
Credit Line

Museum purchase funded by James Edward Maloney

Current Location
Not on view
Accession Number

Private collection, London; [Christie’s, London, Wednesday, May 16, 2012, lot 25]; [Charles Isaacs Photographs, Inc., New York]; purchased by MFAH, 2014.