Magic lantern slide of Victorian graffiti on World Heritage monuments

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The earliest photographers (in the 1830s and 40s) made their money from taking family portraits. By the 1860s, the industry was very well established and professional photographers were searching for new markets for their images. The ancient monuments of Egypt, particularly the pyramids, were an obvious subject, as they were famous and mysterious but only the wealthy could afford to visit them.

Francis Frith was one of the first people to photograph them. The story of how he did this, with relatively primitive equipment in extremely hot and arid conditions, is worth a few minutes research on the internet. The public were so enthralled by his photographs that he built a successful business on the back of them and the company is still a leading supplier of historical photos. The Francis Frith Collection is vast compared to my family’s ‘Keasbury-Gordon Photograph Archive’ but I like to think that ours also has merit!

Frith’s success led to other professional photographers following in his footsteps, some of whom published their photos as glass magic lantern slides, to be projected onto large screens for educational and travel lectures. The best are very high resolution and incredibly sharp and clear, even though they were taken over one hundred and thirty years ago.

The slide shown here is of the Abu Simbel Rock Temple, originally built in 1300 BC and now a World Heritage Site. I’m not going to attempt to tell the story of the monument but should mention that the whole structure was relocated when the Aswan Dam Reservoir was built in 1968.

Wealthy Victorian tourists visited the area and, as we can see in this photo, some of them left their mark in the form of graffitti ….. ‘Julia’ to the left of the lady on the left and ‘Browne’ above the lady on the right. British vandals carving their names onto world treasures ….. disgusting ….. I feel a tut coming on, possibly a tut, tut or even a King Tut.  

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