Photography was Born at the Window

March 28, 2019

The Battle for Realism

The pioneers (1) Niépce and Daguerre

“I made a dissolution of silver nitrate, much diluted by water, in the same proportions as those indicated in the report above on Photographie, to which I also refer for those who have never made a silver solution in nitric acid. I wetted one side of a thin paper sheet; I laid it out at the back of the camera obscura1 by sticking it on its edges, to keep it flat. I placed the camera obscura vertically, opposite some houses in front of my window, in such a way that the lens was vertical; and by being parallel to it, the paper received the image in full. I left the camera obscura in that state for two hours, at the end of which I went to see, and I found that the silver nitrate had become brown in the places which had received light…”2

July 11, 2019

Symbolic Realism

The pioneers (2) Talbot

View of the Boulevards at Paris, 1843

William Henry Fox Talbot was in France between May and June 1843. The main reason for his trip was to teach a series of aspiring calotypists and promote his procedure beyond the Channel (along with the ensuing commercial success). Compared to that of Daguerre, his approach had the major advantage of allowing for multiple positive prints to be made from a paper-based negative. With the help of his faithful assistant Nicolaas Henneman, he transported his photographic equipment over almost four hundred miles from Lacock Abbey, and set up a studio right in the heart of Paris, inside an “isolated and lofty house that stands in the place du Carousel [sic] fronting the Tuileries.”1 Here, his workshop was most likely frequented by some of the pioneers of paper photography, including Hippolyte Bayard (famous for his self-portrait as a drowned man, which he took in October 1840 in order to protest against the indifference of the French government towards his inventions), Henri Victor Regnault, Jean-Baptiste Biot, Hippolyte Fizeau and Jean Louis Lassaigne, who all attended a dinner with him on the evening of 29 May.