Felix Beato

Felix Beato

Traveler and early British photographer
Country: Great Britain

  1. Biography of Felix Beato
  2. Marriage and Family
  3. War Photography during the Crimean War
  4. Photography in India
  5. Commercial Photography in Kolkata
  6. Later Years and Legacy

Biography of Felix Beato

Felix Beato was a traveler and one of the first British photographers, known for his photographs of Eastern Asia. He was also one of the earliest war photographers. His works include panoramas, genre scenes, portraits, and views and landscapes of the Mediterranean and Asia. His photographs shed light on the Crimean War, the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Second Opium War, and the Boshin War.

Marriage and Family

In late 1854 or early 1855, Felix Beato's sister, Leonide Marie Mathilde Beato, married James Robertson. They had three daughters: Katerina Grace (born 1856), Edith Marcon Vorgens (born 1859), and Helen Beatruk (born 1861).

War Photography during the Crimean War

In 1855, Felix Beato and James Robertson traveled to Balaklava in Crimea. Beato served as a military photographer during the Crimean War, meticulously documenting the chronology of events in his photo albums, even if the sequence of his shots was not consistent. However, the technical limitations of the time meant that the photographs were static and unable to convey the triumph of victory or the suffering of the defeated, which Beato aimed to capture.

Photography in India

In February 1858, Felix Beato arrived in Calcutta and embarked on a journey across Northern India to document the aftermath of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. During this time, he may have taken photographs of corpses, including one where he rearranged the remains of Indian rebels in the Sikandar Bagh palace to enhance the dramatic effect. He also visited cities such as Delhi, Kanpur, Meerut, Varanasi, Amritsar, Agra, Shimla, and Lahore.

Commercial Photography in Kolkata

Despite his exploratory and chronological photojournalism, it is important to remember that Beato was primarily a commercial photographer. During that time, photography studios generated more stable income than exploratory ventures. In 1859, Felix Beato opened his own photography studio in Kolkata. Like other commercial photographers of the time, he reproduced his own prints in his studio. This involved attaching finished images to a smooth surface using special buttons and rephotographing them, resulting in circular marks around the edges of some photographs. Each reproduction resulted in a loss of quality, leading to blurred details.

Later Years and Legacy

In July 1858, Felix Beato's brother, Antonio, joined him in India, but he left the country in December of the same year due to health reasons. Antonio Beato settled in Egypt in 1860 and opened a photography studio in Thebes (now Luxor) two years later. In 1860, Felix Beato left the partnership of "Robertson & Beato" and traveled to China to photograph the Anglo-French military expedition during the Second Opium War. He arrived in Hong Kong in March and immediately began photographing the city and its surroundings, including Canton. Felix Beato's photographs are among the earliest images of China.