In 1855 Roger Fenton left England to photograph in the Crimea, where the British, allied with the Ottoman Empire and France, were engaged in war against the Russians. His was the first large-scale photographic documentation of a war. Field Marshall Lord Raglan was the commander of the British Forces in the field, whose distinguished military career included the Battle of Waterloo, where he lost an arm. In this photograph his sleeve is conspicuously pinned up in a kind of half-mast salute.
Raglan sits in a doorway and looks away from the camera, his careworn body positioned at the boundary between light and shadow. Although the positioning is practical in terms of the light source, it is also metaphorical, placing Raglan on the cusp between a brilliant career and the twilight of life. The bright-white plumage of his hat lies across his lap like a dying bird. The bird is perhaps symbolic; Raglan was gravely ill with dysentery when the photograph was made and died within the month.