1.29.10 "The Fox and his Awesome Camera Box"

William Henry Fox Talbot was among the first people to experiment with photography; in 1839, he devised a salted paper process for creating images which he termed "photogenic drawing." Later, Talbot developed a procedure which used "iodized paper" and allowed him to create negatives, which could then be used to make an infinite number of tonally correct positive copies of an image. He called this new method the calotype, which, translated into Greek, means "good impression." When photography was introduced to the public, the calotype was not a success; the daguerreotype was characterized by having greater clarity and intense detail, it had an economic and political advantage over the calotype, and the first calotype processes were slow and produced prints that would fade over time. By the mid 1850's, however, Talbot's negative/positive system gained greater attention and overtook the famed daguerreotype. The initially perceived faults of Talbot's process (required time, visual softness, limited tonal range, and undesired graininess) became positive attributes, as artists realized the artistic potential (greater ability to create more of an emotional atmosphere through photography) of the calotype and the reality of mass-production via negatives. The calotype offered a versatility and flexibility to photographers that the daguerreotype could not match, and it became the process of choice as the Romantic period emerged.

The above image, entitled Oak Tree in Winter at Lacock Abbey, is a salt paper print created by Talbot in the early 1840's.

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