Which Photo Came First?

I don’t know why, but I really enjoy stories of people obsessively exploring minor details of history. The latest example is a series of three lengthy blog posts by director Errol Morris discussing his research into the order in which two photographs were taken.

They’re two photos by Roger Fenton, taken of a barren road during the Crimean War. One features a stack of cannonballs by the side of the road. In the other, the cannonballs are spread across the road. Morris becomes a bit compulsive in determining which photo was taken first.

And speaking of compulsive, check out Morris’s footnote at the end of the third essay:

The diagrams of rock movement and cannonball position in OFF and ON have been provided by Dennis Purcell. There are now more than 1,000 responses to Parts One and Two of this essay. At first, I thought: I don’t think I will respond to any of them. Then I thought: maybe I’ll respond to one or two. And then came the epiphany: I should respond to all 1,000+ – in detail. Wish me luck.

Good luck, Errol.


  1. I didn’t even have to click through to know that Sontag’s writing would play into Morris’ investigation, but I didn’t expect it to be so prominent. While the subject matter is decades old, the subject is very important to the modern portrayal of war, which is very clean and tidy. Even the CBC, which is pretty good at showing things that other news services won’t, will never show the victims. If people saw actual footage from wars, they’d never support them, even from the comfort of their armchairs.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: