Valley of the Shadow of Death (Roger Fenton)

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Valley of the Shadow of Death
Valley of the Shadow of Death, with no cannonballs on the road

Valley of the Shadow of Death is a photograph by Roger Fenton, taken on April 23, 1855, during the Crimean War. It is one of the most well-known images of war.[1]

Roger Fenton was sent to record the Crimean War by Thomas Agnew of Agnew & Sons, where England, France, and Turkey were fighting a war against Russia. The place of the picture was named by British soldiers The Valley of Death for being under constant shelling there.[1] When in September 1855 Thomas Agnew put the picture on show, as one of a series of eleven collectively titled Panorama of the Plateau of Sebastopol in Eleven Parts in a London exhibition, he took the troops'—and Tennyson's—epithet, expanded it as Valley of the Shadow of Death with its deliberate evocation of twenty-third psalm of the Bible.

In 2007 film-maker Errol Morris went to Sevastopol to identify the site of this "first iconic photograph of war". A second version of the photograph without cannonballs on the road led him to question the authenticity of the picture. Hitherto opinions differed concerning which one was taken first but Morris spotted evidence that the photo without the cannonballs was taken first.[2][3][4][5] He remains uncertain about why balls were moved onto the road in the second picture—perhaps, he notes, Fenton probably deliberately placed them there to enhance the image. However, according to the Orsay Museum, "this is unlikely as the fighting raging around him would probably not have allowed him to do so".[6] The alternative is that soldiers were gathering up cannonballs for reuse and they threw down balls higher up the hill onto the road and ditch for collection later.


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Morris, Errol (2011). Believing Is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography. Chapter 1: Penguin Press. p. 310. ISBN 9781594203015.
  3. ^ Morris, Errol (5 October 2012). "In the Valley of the Shadow of Doubt". RadioLab. WNYC Radio. Retrieved 8 November 2012. This episode, which was originally podcast on 24 September 2012, was amended on 5 October 2012.
  4. ^ Dicker, Ron (1 October 2012). "'Valley Of The Shadow Of Death,' Famous Early War Photo, A Staged Fake, Investigator Says (PHOTOS)". Huff Post World 10/01/2012. Huffington Post. Retrieved 8 November 2012.
  5. ^ "Truth Warriors". RadioLab. WNYC Radio. 3 August 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  6. ^ [1]