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Early Work in England

Gun Wharf — Devonport, 1852–1854
Wilson Centre for Photography, London

When Tripe made this picture, Great Britain was preparing to go to war against Russia in the Crimea. The pyramids of cannon balls seen here had been returned to shore after a time at sea, where their surfaces had become corroded in the wet, briny atmosphere. A small pile of clean, shiny cannon balls lies before the seated man on the left, while all around in stark geometric piles stand reminders of the work ahead.

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Lighthouse Breakwater, 1852–1854 or 1861–1862
Janet Dewan

In 1812, when construction began on the Plymouth Breakwater seen in Tripe’s photograph, it was the largest, most ambitious marine engineering project of its time. A mile long and made of 3,768,879 tons of stone, it took 38 years to complete. When finished, the breakwater allowed 40 battleships and numerous merchant vessels to anchor safely in its shelter. The plunging perspective in Tripe’s picture emphasizes the project’s massive scale.

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Quarterdeck of HMS “Impregnable,” 1852–1854
National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Sarah and William L Walton Fund, Diana and Mallory Walker Fund and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel, 2010.72.1

In this boldly composed picture, Tripe positioned his camera to accentuate the huge timbers of the ship’s main mast and yardarm. He may have done so because they had been the site of an execution. On May 12, 1853, Thomas Chown was hanged from the yardarm of this ship after he was found guilty of striking a superior officer while drunk on parade.

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Installation view

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