1979 Egypt

My first job after leaving the Royal College of Art was for the Brooklyn Museum in New York. I was posted to Egypt to document the excavation of Tomb Ramesses XI, create images of the Valley of the King's for a geological survey and photograph other tombs as requested. The post was for six months. During this time significant items were found. The BBC made a documentary film and subsequently employed me to create stills for film, as they had missed the big event! Unfortunately, all the hundreds of 5x4 sheets of film had to be handed to the Brooklyn Museum as part of my contract. What is here is a 'happy snap' of our team. I am the blond chubby one just right of centre. I took the picture on a timed exposure and ran to be included in the shot. The story of making the find was published in the Sunday Times Magazine. A letter written by John Romer, the expedition Director to Paul Watson, the BBC Director is below.

King Ramesses XI worshipping the Goddess Ma'at - approximately 2800 years old

The extent of the items found. The statue, mud baboons, wax cubes with monkeys, beads, inscribed faience and inscribed gold tablets

The house we lived in together was called Davis House. Harry Burton lived in this house as the photographer who documented the discovery of the Tomb of King Tutankhamun. Next to inhabit the property came The Royal Theban Tomb team, directed by John Romer. I was the Royal Theban Tomb photographer. It was located in a near-by valley to the Valley of the King's. When the house was extended to provide more living space we found some broken glass negatives. The images below are believed to be selfies taken by Harry Burton in front of our door. The facade is quite recognisable.

Davis House

Shards of broken glass negatives believed to be of Harry Burton. Early selfies?

I had travelled to Egypt on this job with just £20.00 in my back pocket. Money was scarce in those days and I did not come from a wealthy family. To take personal images at the time was virtually unaffordable and the bank refused to loan money. Working as a large format colour printer, I saved enough money to buy a 5x4 inch camera but I only managed to buy a few rolls of 35 mm film before departing. Below are a handful of images I took while wandering around the local village of Gurna. I have more images, when I find them, I will add them to this collection. The village has since been bulldozed so that more archeological digging can take place. The people have since been resettled in 'New' Gurna on the banks of the Nile.

© 2019 by FRAN MAY PHOTOGRAPHY                                                                         Social Documentary Photography