James Robertson’s Crimean Photographs

In 2011, the Military Collection acquired five salt prints on paper from photographs taken by James Robertson (1813-1888) in the Crimea in the final months of 1855. The photographs depict the camp of the 97th Regiment at Sebastopol; the English burial ground on Cathcart Hill; a landscape panorama with a distant campsite; a ruined battery; and a panorama of Sebastopol.

Unike his fellow countryman, Roger Fenton (1819-1869), who quitted the ‘seat of war’ before its conclusion, Robertson witnessed the capture of Sebastopol in September 1855 and was able to enter the city and document the devastation of the allied siege. He had traveled to the Crimea sometime before June 1855 with his father-in-law and partner, fellow photographer Felice Beato (1832-1909), and they worked together to record the scenes relating to the campaign just concluded (a few years later, Beato traveled to India and recorded the aftermath of the sepoy rebellion in a series of photographs, several of which are in an album in the Military Collection.)

Besides individual scenes, Robertson also created a panorama in three sections showing Sebastopol, two of which are in the collection. The three photographs were taken from the same vantage point, the Malakoff, and then mounted next to each other. They show the city, dockyards, buildings and the principal forts on the northern side.

Another scene depicted British graves on Cathcart Hill (above), a prominent hill overlooking Sebastopol. The graves were of officers killed at the battle of Inkerman  on November 5, 1854. One large gravestone bears an inscription in Russian which was an appeal to the former enemy not to desecrate the site.

Fifty-eight of Roberston’s photographs were exhibited in London at Kilburn’s in Regent Street in December 1855 [Illustrated London News, Dec. 22, 1855, page 718].

Comments are closed.