‘Mrs Bent and her Camera. Photo by Russell & Sons, London, probably Spring, 1895’

‘Mrs Bent and her Camera. Photo by Russell & Sons, London, probably Spring, 1895’. First appearing in ‘The Album, A Journal of Photographs of Men, Women and Events of the Day’ (Vol. 2, no.2, 8 July 1895, pp. 44-45).

Thanks to the British Library, we are delighted to show this extremely rare studio photo of Mabel standing beside her camera and tripod and attired for the wilds. It’s unlikely that more than a few people will have seen this since it was published in July 1895. Assuming the portrait was taken in the first half of that year, Mabel – her trademark long red hair coiled elegantly as ever – would have just reappeared from Muscat, Oman and Dhofar, and be preparing for the coming winter’s journey with her husband along the west coast of the Red Sea. That Mabel would feature in ‘The Album’ is no surprise – ever since the couple’s journey in 1891 to the ruins of Great Zimbabwe for Cecil Rhodes the Bents were celebrities.

A 'Luzo' camera
A ‘Luzo’ camera, the portable model favoured by Mabel Bent. Reproduced with the kind permission of (c) Todd Gustavson (private collection).

It’s not immediately obvious which of her cameras she is displaying here; Mabel’s small apparatus of choice was her ‘Luzo’ box camera, however the protruding lens indicates another, larger model. If anyone can identify it, please write in!

The iconic pose of Theodore Bent, captured by the studio of James Russell & Sons, probably 1895.

There is every chance that the above, and never-bettered, photograph of Mabel was taken at the same sitting at Russell’s as the iconic portrait of Theodore, with solar topee and famous whip. It was this image that Mabel might well have selected personally for the obituary of her husband, printed in the Illustrated London News of 15 May 1897 (page 669).

Mabel’s Travel Chronicles are chock full of references to her camera and her trials as a field-photographer!

Click for more information on Mabel as Photographer.