Was Roger Fenton’s famous war photo staged? Errol Morris explains. – Vox.com

The obsessive journey to answer one question: Which of these photos was taken first?
Roger Fenton’s 1855 photo “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” is the first famous photograph of war, depicting a barren road littered with cannonballs fired during the Crimean War. But there’s a second photo of the same road with no cannonballs, which has led photo historians, and, notably, American writer and filmmaker Susan Sontag, to claim that the famed photo is staged. Meaning, the photo with no cannonballs was taken first, and the photo with cannonballs was arranged and taken second.
American documentary film director Errol Morris went down a rabbit hole of interviews and photo analysis to determine if that order of the photos — with cannonballs off the road first, then on — is accurate, based solely on what’s present in the photographs themselves.
You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. And if you’re interested in supporting our video journalism, you can become a member of the Vox Video Lab on YouTube.
We have a request
In moments like this — as people grapple to understand variants and vaccines, and kids head back to school — many outlets take their paywalls down. Vox’s content is always free, in part because of financial support from our readers. We’ve been covering the Covid-19 pandemic for more than a year and a half. From the beginning, our goal was to bring clarity to chaos. To empower people with the information they needed to stay safe. And we’re not stopping.

To our delight, you, our readers, helped us hit our goal of adding 2,500 financial contributions in September in just 9 days. So we’re setting a new goal: to add 4,500 contributions by the end of the month. Reader support helps keep our coverage free, and is a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. Will you help us reach our goal by making a contribution to Vox with as little as $3?
Understand how policy impacts people. Delivered Fridays.
Check your inbox for a welcome email.