Keeping a broad historical perspective


Cover photograph, Oak Tree in Winter, 1842 – 1843, photograph copyright of the William Henry Fox Talbot Estate

Well again, I succumbed to temptation at the book store. This time it was a retrospective of the developmental and creative work of one of the early photographic pioneers, William Henry Fox Talbot, published by Phaidon last year. I had been thinking again about who would be on my list of 50 photographers you should know, and for me, this is the guy that should be the lead-in photographer on my list.

But what I had not realized until I thumbed through the book at the store, was how the quality his photographic work developed over the time that he had dedicated to taking photographs. FYI, he segwayed from taking photographs about 1846 into developing a printing process for books, that became the photogravure printing process. Remarkable.

Regarding the aesthetic merits of his photographs and this book, I’ll be publishing a review on The Photo Book late next month or sometime in August. Regardless, I found this a hard book to put down, it just kept leaping into my hands regardless of the late hour.

I had always associated Talbot with the very crude early photographs and later the contact calotypes, but Talbot had realized the potential to capture a “negative” and then subsequently print the “positive”. Such as the “Oak Tree in Winter, 1842 – 1843” that is the tipped in image on the books cover.

So not only are Talbot’s early scientific discoveries for both photography and book publishing of great merit, but I have found that his body of work (some 5,000 photographs) is wonderful as well.

Okay, this is where my list starts for the 50 photographers that you should know. William Henry Fox Talbot.

Best regards, Doug

One thought on “Keeping a broad historical perspective

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  1. I’ve been very fortunate in being aware of Fox Talbot for a long time. His home, at Lacock in Wiltshire, is very close to where I grew up.
    His work in creating a process for continued reproductions (compared to Daguerre’s work) is probably the greatest single contribution to photography.

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