“Salt and Silver”

‘Nelson’s Column under Construction, Trafalgar Square’ (1844) by William Henry Fox Talbot
‘Nelson’s Column under Construction, Trafalgar Square’ (1844) by William Henry Fox Talbot

At Tate Britain

Anne Wagner

How early was early photography? And how long did its earliness endure? The customary answer is just short of three decades, from about 1839 to 1865. The first date marks not the beginning of photographic experiments, but the year Louis Daguerre announced his ability to ‘seize the light’, a claim soon rephrased by William Henry Fox Talbot as the art of ‘fixing a shadow’. As for 1865, it’s the year that marks, along with much else, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the end of the American Civil War, and the inauguration of photography’s increasingly public role in the world. At war’s end Daguerre had been dead for 14 years. And Talbot had long since decided against renewing his patent on the talbotype (or more commonly, calotype) process, and begun to focus on deciphering cuneiform. When Talbot died in 1877, neither his calotype nor Daguerre’s daguerreotype was widely in use.”

Read more at

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n10/anne-wagner/at-tate-britain