“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” wrote Lord Byron in 1818, glancing at a similar statue of Pharaoh Ramesses II. The above picture however appeared as plate 106 in the photobook Égypte, Nubie, Palestine et Syrie, which brought its author Maxime du Camp instant fame. In a time when photos accompanying the travel books were rare, du Camp published his Egyptian chronicle with 125 photographs.
A travel writer, du Camp traveled in Europe and the East with Gustave Flaubert. However, he had no experience in photography, du Camp learned the craft from Gustave Le Gray shortly before his departure for Egypt. After an initial stay in Cairo, Fluabert and du Camp (who were lifelong friends) hired a boat to take them up the Nile as far as the second cataract, after which they descended the river at leisure, exploring the archaeological sites along its banks. In March 1850, the duo arrived at Abu Simbel built by Ramesses II (r. 1279–1213 B.C.). Always in search of a neat, documentary clarity, he preferred a frontal view and midday light for this iconic picture of one of the colossal effigies of Ramesses II.
On his return, he published his Egyptian adventure in 1852. The next year, he was made an officer of the Legion of Honour and eventually in 1880, was elected a member of the French Academy in 1880.