Who was Francis Frith?
Born into a Quaker family in 1822 in Chesterfield, Derbyshire,
Francis Frith was a remarkable person, philosophical and devoutly
religious by nature and pioneering in outlook. He was a complex
and multi-talented man who had a formidable instinct for business.
By the time he founded his photographic publishing company in
1860 he had already established a wholesale grocery business in
Liverpool which was so successful that by the mid 1850s he was
able to sell it for a price which made him a the equivalent
of a multi-millionaire today.
Frith had been a founder member of the Liverpool Photographic Society
in 1853 – only 14 years after the invention of photography, 1839.
Between 1856 and 1860, as a gentleman of leisure, he made three
pioneering and sometimes dangerous photographic expeditions to the
Middle East, taking bulky cameras, equipment and glass plates with
him and travelling by boat, donkey, mule and camel. These journeys
took him to Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia, Sinai, Palestine, Lebanon and
Syria, and established his reputation as an outstanding pioneer
photographer. The photographs he took on these expeditions were
marketed by the London firm of Negretti & Zambra as hugely
popular stereoscopic views, and were also published in London and
New York in limited edition part-works of prints, with sales
totalling over £3 million in today’s value.