East Façade of the Parthenon

William Stillman (American, 1828-1901), 1869
Carbon print from The Acropolis of Athens, published 1870
2002.11.7
Gift of William Knight Zewadski

William Stillman (American, 1828-1901), a journalist, sometime diplomat, and painter, proved himself a gifted amateur photographer with the 1870 publication of The Acropolis of Athens, which showed the monuments from novel points of view. The caption for this image in Stillman’s book reads, “General view of the summit of the Acropolis, from the extreme eastern point, showing the Erecthium at the right, and in the distance, at the left the Egean. The Parthenon occupies the centre.” He omits mention of the Frankish tower which is also clearly visible just to the left of the Parthenon.

This image is a combination print, made from two negatives, one for the sky and one for features of the Acropolis. The photographic emulsions used at this time were very sensitive to the blue rays of the spectrum, and, thus, when the negative was exposed long enough to record the landscape, the sky was always overexposed and uniformly cloudless. The technique of combining two negatives was devised in the 1850s. Its use by Stillman is indicative of his original and painterly approach to photography.