Reputations made and lost: the writing of histories of early twentieth-century British photography and the case of Walter Benington

Crow, Robert (2016) Reputations made and lost: the writing of histories of early twentieth-century British photography and the case of Walter Benington. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

Text (Text and photographs)
Rob Crow Thesis Final_Redacted 6 images 3rd party copyright.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License All Rights Reserved.

Download (8MB) | Preview


Walter Benington (1872-1936) was a major British photographer, a member of the Linked Ring and a colleague of international figures such as F H Evans, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen and Alvin Langdon Coburn. He was also a noted portrait photographer whose sitters included Albert Einstein, Dame Ellen Terry, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and many others. He is, however, rarely noted in current histories of photography. Beaumont Newhall’s 1937 exhibition Photography 1839-1937 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York is regarded by many respected critics as one of the foundation-stones of the writing of the history of photography. To establish photography as modern art, Newhall believed it was necessary to create a direct link between the master-works of the earliest photographers and the photographic work of his modernist contemporaries in the USA. He argued that any work which demonstrated intervention by the photographer such as the use of soft-focus lenses was a deviation from the direct path of photographic progress and must therefore be eliminated from the history of photography. A consequence of this was that he rejected much British photography as being “unphotographic” and dangerously irrelevant. Newhall’s writings inspired many other historians and have helped to perpetuate the neglect of an important period of British photography. As a result, the work of key photographers such as Walter Benington is now virtually unknown. Benington’s central involvement with the Linked Ring and his national and international exhibition successes demonstrate his significance within post-1890 British photography. Recent moves in the writing of histories of photography have called for the exploration of previously unknown archives and collections. A detailed examination of a cross-section of Benington’s work will illustrate that he was a photographer of great distinction and marked individuality fully worthy of a major reappraisal.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Uncontrolled Keywords: Walter Benington (1872-1936), Housetopper; Photographer; History of Photography; British Photography 1890-1930; Linked Ring Brotherhood; Beaumont Newhall and British Photography; Pictorialism; Photographic Portraits; Royal Photographic Society; St Paul’s Cathedral; Henri Gaudier-Brzeska; Photography of London; Jacob Epstein; Ellen Terry; Albert Einstein; F H Evans; A L Coburn; Alfred Stieglitz; National Photographies
Subjects: T Technology > TR Photography
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Arts
Research Priority Areas: Culture, Continuity, and Transformation
Creative Practice and Theory
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2016 09:59
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2021 21:33

University Staff: Request a correction | Repository Editors: Update this record

University Of Gloucestershire

Bookmark and Share

Find Us On Social Media:

Social Media Icons Facebook Twitter Google+ YouTube Pinterest Linkedin

Other University Web Sites

University of Gloucestershire, The Park, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 2RH. Telephone +44 (0)844 8010001.