By Simeon Dontas
The island of Rhodes is fortunate to have been photographed like almost no other. In the mid-19th century, Rhodes was subject to foreign rule – a mere province of the Ottoman Empire. Nevertheless, the island’s reputation for ancient and knightly glory had captured the imagination of both Greek and foreign travelers, with Rhodes becoming a regular stop on the Grand Tour.
A few of those who came brought with them their own camera equipment. The photographic history of Rhodes began in 1850, when Claudius Galen Wheelhouse, an English surgeon and amateur photographer, took the first photo – of the Rhodian knights’ Naillac Tower, before its collapse in an earthquake. Then, in 1853, British diplomat Dominic E. Colnaghi produced some calotypes; in 1857, Scotsman James Graham immortalized the Street of the Knights; and in 1862, Francis Bedford, escorting the Prince of Wales on an educational tour, took three photographs of the island.
In their wake came many photographers, amateur and professional, who managed to stop time with their cameras and deliver the past to to us, imprinted on photographic paper. In their photos, we can find a story of an island at the cusp of change – from occupation to freedom, from war to peace.