Photographs of Béchard

Fig. 1: Filling of losses on the light table

Fig. 2: View of the Ramesseum Temple in Theben

Fig. 3: Detail of retouching

Fig. 4: View of the Colosses of Memnon in Theben

The French photographer Henri Béchard worked around 1875 in Cairo. It is assumed that he was active in the studio of Émile Béchard located in the Ezbekiyya Gardens. Possibly the two photographers were brothers. Henri´s photographs are signed with H. Béchard in the lower right corner. His motives were mostly cultural monuments as well as typical persons and landscapes, motives highly sought after by European clients. Among wealthy Europeans it became very popular to travel to Oriental countries in the late 19th century. Few tourists took their own photographs. Instead the tourists bought pictures on site to document their journey. A number of photo studios emerged in the Orient to provide photographs of sites, local people and typical landscapes. Many of these studios were run by European photographers.


Over 90 albumen prints by Henri Béchard are part of the pictures archive. The albumen prints are not as usually mounted on cardboard. As a consequence the thin papers with a layer of albumen show mechanical deformation as cracks, tears and missing areas. The high photographic quality is not diminished. The albumen prints show rich tonality in dark and light areas. In a current conservation project the prints have been cleaned. Cracks and tears have been reinforced with thin Japanese papers from the back. By flattening the photographs we tried to re-establish the original appearance. Losses were filled with smooth historic papers, sometimes lined with Japanese Gampi papers to adjust texture and colour. The infills were toned with water-colours to achieve a colour close to aged albumen prints. After conservation the prints will be mounted in passe-partouts.

last update 2/3/2016