Interview: how photographer Sandro Vannini captured Tutankhamun’s tomb

Sandro Vannini interview
(Image credit: Sandro Vannini)

Sandro Vannini is an Italian photographer and filmmaker who began his creative career in the early 1980s. Since 1997 he has been best-known for photographing ancient Egyptian culture, for which he has special permission to access sites that are forbidden to the public. Vannini has pioneered techniques to shoot digital images in the extreme temperatures of the Valley of the Kings, including in the tombs of the pharaohs. His images are among those assisting the work of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo in the restoration of artifacts. Since 2016, he has been directing and producing television programs in collaboration with Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass.

Archaeologist Howard Carter’s eight- year-long excavations in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings culminated on 4 November 1922, with the historic discovery of the steps to the tomb of Tutankhamun. Carter began taking photographs himself, but quickly realized he required a professional photographer to document the excavation of the tomb and its artifacts. Harry Burton, who had been working in Egypt for 12 years, was loaned to Carter’s team. Burton shot straight on to glass-plate negatives, coated with silver nitrate, with a large-format camera. His imagery included establishing shots within the tomb to note the positions of the treasures, close-ups of each artifact and documentary images, such as Carter inspecting the casket of Tutankhamun.

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