Felice Beato (born in Venice in 1832 and died in Florence in 1909) was an Italian-British photographer among the first to take photographs in East Asia and the Mediterranean and one of the first war photographers.
Through his work, many Westerners were able to see for the first time remote regions of Asia and the Mediterranean, hitherto only described through illustrations or stories.
Felice Beato in fact filmed fundamental moments of modern histories, such as the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and the Second Opium War.
During his time in Japan, where he took some of the most powerful images of that era, he influenced other Japanese artists and photographers.
Felice Beato, born in Venice, became an English citizen, perhaps after his stay in Corfù, at the time a British protectorate.
Beato arrived in China from India to photograph the Anglo-French military expedition during the Second Opium War.
Arrival in Hong Kong
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Felice Beato arrived in Hong Kong in March 1860 and immediately began to tell the places he saw: the military camps in Hong Kong, then still only a piece of rocky land, and Canton.
His are among the first photographs of China.
After his meeting with Charles Wirgman, he began his collaboration with London News.
The two accompanied the Anglo-French troops on their journey to Dalien Bay (Talien), then Pehtang and Taku Forts to Peiho boca, then Beijing and Qingyi Yuan, the summer palace.
Canton and South of China
The Second Opium War
His photographs of the Second Opium War, are the first images to document a military campaign in real time, while the events took place before his eyes, through a sequence of carefully archived images.
His photographs of Taku’s forts, tell the salient events of this moment: the approach to the fort, the effects of the bombing on the outer walls and on the fortifications, and finally the ravages inside the fort, including images of Chinese corpses.
The Summer Palace
Just outside Beijing, stands the splendid imperial summer residence, or the Summer Palace (Qingyi Yuan, today Yihe Yuan).
Some of these images, taken between 6 and 18 October, show the complex during the looting of the western troops.
By order of Lord Elgin, on October 18 and 19, some buildings were set on fire by the British First Division in retaliation for the death and torture suffered by a diplomatic group of twenty.
According to Bennett, these are the first photographs of Beijing so far discovered and thus constitute a corpus of photographic documents of inestimable historical and cultural value.
Among the images, Beato also took a picture of Prince Kung who signed the Beijing Convention on the part of Emperor Xianfeng.