In 1858 the Victoria and Albert Museum in London staged the first museum show of photography anywhere in the world. Organised by the London based Photographic Society (later the Royal Photographic Society) and the Societé Francais de photographie, it was dominated by British photographers, among them Roger Fenton and Horatio Ross. However, about a quarter of the works were by French photographers such as Gustave Le Gray and Charles Negre. Although not previously cited in the literature on the photographer, promiment among these French exhibitors was Ange Eugene Henri Mailand. The exhibition included twelve of his views of the Pyrenées - the same number as our presentation - which Mailand had taken in the preceding two years. Some of these pictures may even be identifiable in Thurston Thompson's well-known photograph of the installation.
Mailand played a prominent part in early photographic circles in France. Not only was he a founder-member of the SFP but he also served for several years as its first treasurer. This makes it all the more surprising that he is today virtually unknown. Although a serious photographer and also a collector of photographs, his pictures seem to have become lost following his death, meaning his contribution has all but disappeared from view. Very few of Mailand's prints exist, most are only known from one or two prints, and his work features only cursorily in photographic histories of early French photography. In France, the SFP has photographs donated by Mailand, himself.The BNF has a view of Nimes attributed to him and the Musée nationale du chateau in Pau in the Pyrenées has a small number of works. Internationally his presence is even harder to discern. The Fine Art Museums of San Francisco and the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City each have a single print.
The main source of prints by Mailand is a dis-assembled album, formerly in the possession of now closed Galerie Michèle Chomette, that are characterised by their reddish colouring. These prints reveal a talent that deserves the recognition of other contemporaneous photographers of the Pyrenées.
In common with several of the greatest French pioneers, Mailand studied under Gustave Le Gray and he is believed to be one of his earliest pupils. However, he was rare in continuing to use paper negatives long after others had turned to collodion on glass and he is recorded by the SFP in 1857 as one of the few photographers still using the medium.
His photographs of the Pyrenées, largely taken in 1856 and 1857, were made using Gustave Le Gray's method of waxed paper negatives and are mainly salt prints or coated salt prints. Although he appears to have worked independently, it seems likely that he would have come across the other photographers working in the Pyrenées, notably those centred on Pau such as Jean-Jacques Heilmann, John Stewart and Vicomte Joseph Vigier. This relationship is well illustrated in the exhibition and publication, Pyrenées en images. De l'oeil a l'objectif 1820-60 at the musée nationale du chateau de Pau in 1995. Indeed, the comparative photographs at the end of the this publication suggest an aesthetic with parallels, especially, with that of Vicomte Vigier.
The present publication appears to be the largest collection to date of works by Mailand and as such provides an exceptional opportunity to appraise, and acquire, photographs by one of the unsung pioneers of early French photography.
© 2020 James Hyman Gallery, PO Box 67698,
LONDON. NW11 1NE