John Beasly Greene
Biography | Bibliography
John Beasly Greene, son of American banker, born in France, devoted his short life – he died of tuberculosis in Cairo at twenty-four – Egyptian archeology and photography.
He went to Egypt in autumn 1853. Too young and unknown to receive an official nomination, he financed the trip through his personal fortune. Not being able, in 1854, for lack of authorization, conduct searches he had planned to make, he spent much of his trip on the Nile to photograph. It was only in 1855, after returning to Paris, he published his photographs and delivered various papers on his journey, he obtained permission, thanks to the intervention of Ferdinand de Lesseps, to conduct searches Thebes; excavations that continued the following year in Algeria along with Louis-Adrien Berbrugger, founder of the museum and the library of Algiers.
All these works are accompanied by photographic campaigns, but the richest series of images and the most remarkable remains that he brought back from his trip down the Nile in 1854, over two hundred negative in three categories: monuments, landscapes, sculptures and inscriptions. He spoke like Maxime Du Camp, to Blanquart-Evrard to publish, the year of the shots, a selection of his photographs, in two parts: forty-six planks monuments and forty-eight landscapes in the most complete copy of this book, certainly published in very few copies.
Greene could not ignore the Maxime Du Camp album, released short time before the same presses, but his in completely different. The images are of a very larger, presented in a large format width “Italian”, while the book of Du Camp had a size in height and more modest. The aesthetic views is quite different. In the photographs of monuments, he demonstrated an absolute mastery of volumes, light and shadow, clean beauty of Egyptian ruins, he manages to evoke their tangible presence and mystery at a time, with extraordinary acuity.
The idea of separating buildings and landscapes suggest the particular importance he attached to this second category, also treated with a narcotic sense of proportion. He embraces the vastness of the sky over land, the infinite expanses of desert, blurred in an impalpable vapor grain calotype. He plays a surveyor landmark, palm tree, group of trees, distant monument, to structure a full picture of the empty sky, sand and water. The sight of the Nile to the hills of Thebes, yet surveyed the landscape by all travelers who preceded and followed it, remains an image without equivalent.
Rachel Topham, John Beasly Greene (dissertation), Toronto, Ontario, Ryerson University, Diss., 2006.
John Hannavy, Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Routledge, Dec 16, 2013.
Recueil. Documentation sur John Beasly Greene, Paris, France, [S.l : s.n.]