Towers, walls, and turrets recede into the distance as far as the eye can see. The strong diagonal composition formed from Moscow's architecture is reinforced by the river bank and the sweep of barges in the foreground. To achieve this view, Roger Fenton set up his camera on a bridge across from the Moscow River. On the left, beyond the expanse of the river and a slender water tower, stands the recently completed Great Palace of the Kremlin. The octagonal bell tower of Ivan the Great rises just above and to the right. Another sixteenth-century building, the Cathedral of the Archangel, neighbors the bell tower.
In September 1852, Fenton-who had only taken up photography a few months earlier-traveled to Russia with an acquaintance who was constructing a bridge for Czar Nicholas I. Perhaps recognizing that he was one of the first photographers to train his camera on Russia, Fenton made views of Moscow and St. Petersburg, capturing the distinct architectural character of each city. The cityscapes in this series are the earliest surviving photographs of Russia.