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The Photographic Art of William Henry Fox Talbot

Talbot, William Henry Fox; Schaaf, Larry J.

6 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0691050007 / ISBN 13: 9780691050003
Published by Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2000
Condition: Fine Hardcover
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About this Item

264pp. B&W illus. Notes. Glossary, Bibliography, Index. Fine oversized hardback/Fine DJ (still in shrinkwrap). Bookseller Inventory # 17518

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Photographic Art of William Henry Fox ...

Publisher: Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ

Publication Date: 2000

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

About this title

Synopsis:


William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) is best remembered as the scientist who invented photography. Others had tried recording the images projected by a lens, but Talbot was the first to grasp the physical basis for realizing this dream and to conceive of a practical means for fixing these ephemeral images permanently onto a sheet of paper. But Talbot's considerable technical achievements have often overshadowed his growth as an artist. Larry Schaaf examines this artistic growth by bringing together for the first time high quality reproductions of one hundred photographs representing the full sweep of Talbot's work. These beautiful images are not only records of scientific triumphs, but also the evidence of the first steps in shaping a totally new type of vision.


A classicist, physicist, and mathematician by training, Talbot originally viewed his new invention as a means of visual documentation, particularly of the botanical specimens he loved so dearly. But gradually his new technology taught him to see, and the growth of Talbot's personal vision defined the beginnings of modern photography. The resulting corpus of work ranged from seminal early images rich in primal beauty to later, fully sophisticated photographs. Illuminating these images with excerpts from Talbot's own writings and those of his contemporaries, this book is a visual celebration of the early days of photography.


The one hundred plates are reproduced in the actual size of the originals and in all the subtle colors that comprised Talbot's early work. They range from Talbot's Lilliputian pre-1839 negatives (made in "mousetrap" cameras) through botanical photograms to mid-1840s calotypes that demonstrate a sure command of the new art. Each plate is discussed in detail, drawing on important new research conducted by the author.


Published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Talbot's birth, The Photographic Art of William Henry Fox Talbot will not only deepen our understanding of early photography but will also serve as an important archive for those who may never have the pleasure to witness firsthand these rare and fragile works. As such, this beautifully produced book is an essential addition to the library of anyone who collects, studies, and admires photography.


Review:

Photography is such a constant in our culture that we've forgotten that years ago it must have seemed more like magic than art, science, or craft. The Photographic Art of William Henry Fox Talbot brings us back to the spectacular moment of wonder when photography was first invented. Talbot, born 200 years ago, was a successful mathematician and frustrated draftsman when he invented photography out of his personal desire to make more realistic drawings. He saw his new process as a way for nature to make her own perfect pictures.

Talbot first experimented with salts of silver that produced sun-darkened shadows of objects placed on paper. Many experiments later, he realized that negatives could be reversed, and was eventually able to produce multiple prints. Apart from the brilliance of his invention, the images that Talbot captured are beautiful and mysterious. Softer than modern photography, these pictures look like paintings: gentle leaves, breath-taking sunlight glowing through windows, negatives of intricate lace, reproductions of paintings, and posed pictures of family. Talbot varied the size of his images, making tiny prints from boxes he called mousetraps (a mouselike perspective on the world) to larger landscape portraits. The magic resonates with a thoughtfulness that may have resulted from the slow process of early image-making. How amazing it must have been, seeing and creating the world on paper for the very first time. Aside from the spectacular pictures, the text covers Talbot's life and his experimental processes, and each of the 100 images is given its own explanatory text. --J.P. Cohen

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