Fox Talbot and the Negative

If you’ve read this blog so far you might be forgiven for thinking I live in a charity shop! The reality is there are about 5 in the town where I work and I go out for a wander about once a week. Having cleared that up, this week’s buy were two books. I need another photography book like the Gobi needs a bit more sand, but that didn’t stop me buying two of course! First was Susan Sontag “On Photography” – the other “Fox Talbot Photographer” by Robert Lassam.

“Fox Talbot Photographer” by Robert Lassam

Fox Talbot was a brilliant man by any measure. He was born in 1800, in Dorset, became fluent in French, Italian, Hebrew, Latin and Greek. He went to Cambridge, travelled widely, and had lifelong interests in Botany and Chemistry. Six years after leaving Cambridge he settled at Lacock Abbey, the family estate, where he indulged in his scientific experiments. The Abbey, in fact the whole estate is now in the care of the National Trust and open to the public.

In 1833, whilst sat by the side of Lake Como (Italy) he became unsatisfied by his attempts at sketching through a camera obscurer and wondered if he could come up with a way of “chemically fixing” the image he saw onto the paper – by 1835 he had produced the earliest known photographic negative. The Oriel Window – Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, August 1835.

The First Negative: The Oriel Window – Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, August 1835.

By 1844 he had published “The Pencil of Nature” an open source copy can be viewed here…

A year or so ago I managed a visit to Lacock Abbey, and of course to pay homage to the window. In the visitors centre there is a museum, containing some of the history of photography. It is odd to see a Leica Enlarger, in an environmentally controlled glass case, cared for lovingly by the National Trust, when I used to have one in the loft!

Museum to Photography, Lacock Abbey
Lacock Abbey
Andy outside “the window”
Fox Talbot’s Desk
Mousetrap opposite……
The Oriel Window

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