William Fox Talbot


finding the oldest negative

starting to search for a positive

(Exhibition, V@A,  London)

Visitors can’t take photos of old photos in the V&A….which is ironic in this age of mobile phones, especially as Mr Fox Talbot, one of the key inventors of the photographic processes,  gave himself permission to take photos of lots of things creating the ‘foundation genres’ and possibilities that all photographers have subsequently built on. One of the most important of these genres is that of photographing artworks, something that Talbot did with great foresight (leading through many changes in process and technology to our favourite art magazines and books) while assiduously enforcing the copyright of his new salt print photographic process.

Pause with your enquiring lens
hover to count the crosses and hatches
the grains of strained chemicals
the spots and stains of rough river water 
sieved through paper fibres, 
catching light as blackness 
formed into an ordered grid of spaces 
captured, caged that can now can be counted.


I have given myself permission to take this photo below of trees in the style of Talbot using a medium format camera. I can use his process (or its sucessor) but no one can legally copy my image the reverse of the situation in 1835?


‘one volume in the set included copies of artworks by Francisco Goya, Diego Velazquez and El Greco amongst others. The work began to realise Talbot’s proposal for photography not only as a means for securing faithful reproductions of originals but also to enhance the appreciation of art history, so reinforcing the medium’s museological dimension.  But, as with most of Talbot’s large scale printing projects, the chemical instability of prints, limited daylight and impurities in the water all contributed to the failings of the venture.’

Roberts, R and Hobson G (2016) William Henry Fox Talbot – Dawn of the photograph, Scala Arts and Heritage Publishers, London.

Photos from BBC website.

The notion





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