THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH, CRIMEA, UKRAINE
1855
PHOTO BY ROGER FENTON

REPRESENTATION:
Taken during the Crimean War in 1855, Roger Fenton’s photograph of cannonballs scattered across a Crimean battlefield is one of the earliest and most famous images of war. The photo is titled, “Valley of Shadow of Death.”

REALITY:
Roger Fenton took two photographs of the valley from the same vantage point, on the same day. In the best-known photo, cannonballs are strewn across the road; in the other photo, the cannonballs are accumulated in a ditch on the left side of the road. 

Writers Susan Sontag and Ulrich Keller have both written about the image. In 2012, documentary filmmaker Errol Morris investigated the claims that Fenton had staged the photo. Morris was able to prove that Fenton’s famous photo with the cannonballs in the middle of the road was indeed the second photo taken.
 

"Not surprisingly many of the canonical images of early war photography turn out to have been staged, or to have had their subjects tampered with. After reaching the much shelled valley approaching Sebastopol in his horse-drawn darkroom, [Roger] Fenton made two exposures from the same tripod position: in the first version of the celebrated photo he was to call “The Valley of the Shadow of Death”(despite the title, it was not across this landscape, that the Light Brigade made its doomed charge), the cannonballs are thick on the ground to the left of the road, but before taking the second picture – the one that is always reproduced – he oversaw the scattering of the cannonballs on the road itself."
- Susan Sontag, "Regarding the Pain of Others"


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Image copyright Roger Fenton