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The Valley of the Shadow of Death, 23 April 1855

Famous photograph the valley of the shadow of death. It shows a dirt road in a valley in the Crimea, with cannonballs scattered across the road.
The valley of the shadow of death, April 1855 by Roger Fenton

This photograph titled “The valley of the shadow of death” is one of the most iconic war photos. It was taken during the Crimean War which was a conflict between the Ottoman Empire, France, and Britain against the Russian Empire. It was the first war that was ever photographed.

The image shows a dirt road in Sevastopol, Crimea covered with cannonballs scattered across and surrounding it. There is another photograph which does that have the cannonballs on the road.

It was taken on April 23rd, 1855 by Roger Fenton, a British photographer. He was hired by Thomas Agnew & Sons to document the final war as the public had become interested.

The photograph was named “The valley of the shadow of death” because during the Crimean War there was a failed attack by the British light cavalry called the “Charge of the Light Brigade” which took place in a valley. The soldiers referred to the valley in which the battle to place, as “the valley of death”. A famous poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson published 6 weeks after the charge also referred to the valley as “the valley of death”.

While this photo is not of that of the valley where the charge took place, Thomas Agnew, the owner of the print publisher that hired Fenton, decided to name the image this when he exhibited it at a London Exhibition in a series of 11 pictures collectively named “Panorama of the Plateau of Sebastopol in Eleven Parts“. The name was a direct copy of a section of Psalm 23 in the Bible. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4


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