On-site to celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Negative

Posted by on Aug 12 2010 | History, Photography

My wife France and I were asked to come to the Fox Talbot Museum in Lacock, England to teach ten participants from all over the world how to make Photogenic Drawings, negatives on paper sensitized with silver chloride. Yes, this is the place where 175 years ago today, the first photographic negative was invented by William Henry Fox Talbot.

Vintage salt print of Fox Talbot’s home.

Lacock Abbey as it looks today in the Cotswolds.

Today is the fourth day of the Dawn of Photography workshop being held at Lacock Abbey, Talbot’s home where he conducted his own experiments in the mid-1830s. [The abbey was also used for filming the Harry Potter movies, though this is an aside.] His early images were very colorful and not the dull brown of the later processes.

Illustrations of various kinds of salt stabilization.

Talbot used his process for making contact prints from leaves, lace and other thin objects but also made images using camera obscura as well.  A rare exhibition list of Talbot’s photogenic drawings dating August 1839 from the George Eastman House Richard and Roney Menschel Library collection gave important information regarding exactly which flowers and engravings Talbot actually used in contact with his sensitive paper. This information has allowed participants to search the grounds of the abbey for the same botanicals picked by Talbot in his original experiments.

Fox Talbot Museum curator Roger Watson has been giving tours and lectures about the history of this important site, and participants have been taking images around the grounds of the historic village of Lacock recreating the original scenes made by Talbot in the early 19th century. Special cameras and lenses were esigned that all the participants are using and will eventually take with them after the workshop.

Mousetrap cameras that were constructed for this workshop.

This evening, we are in for a special treat in– the opening reception for the exhibit, Celebrating the Negative. It’s hard to believe that we are at this amazing site conducting this workshop and commemorating this special event.

For more on our Photography Workshop series, click here.

Editor’s note:  Many thanks to Stacey VanDenburgh, Manager of the
Kay R. Whitmore Conservation Center at George Eastman House, for all her help with this entry.

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    Mark Osterman is the Process Historian in the Kay R. Whitmore Conservation Center at George Eastman House. Best known for his depth of knowledge in the area of collodion photography, Osterman is also internationally recognized for his research and teaching of photographic processes from Niepce heliographs to gelatin emulsions. Osterman's curriculum, once reserved for the international conservation community, is now available to the public through a series of hands-on workshops at Eastman House and other venues in the U.S. and abroad.

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