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Autopsy of the First Crocodile Onboard, Upper Egypt
Salted paper print, from paper negative
17.5 x 21.3 cm (6 7/8 x 8 3/8 ins) (image)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gilman Collection, Purchase, William Talbott Hillman Foundation Gift, 2005, Accession Number: 2005.100.262
Curatorial description (Accessed: 13 October 2017)
This is perhaps the world’s first traveler snapshot, made on the deck of a traditional Nile vessel almost forty years before hand-held cameras, shutters, and fast film made the genre a possibility. In 1852, whether for business or simply on a young man’s grand tour, Benecke traveled throughout Egypt and the Mediterranean with a camera and a surprisingly humane spirit. The photographers who traveled there shortly before and after him, including Maxime Du Camp, Félix Teynard, and J. B. Greene, focused almost exclusively on the ancient monuments and landscape. Benecke, instead, documented the contemporary world with such keen sensitivity that his photographs, beyond their ethnographic value, present intimate and unaffected portraits of the region’s inhabitants.