Photography invented by the British, not the French, claims the Bodleian Library exhibition

William Henry Fox Talbot, considered the true inventor of photography, in his studio – Hulton Archive

Photography was invented by an Englishman from Dorset, not a Frenchman, who used to be considered the father of photography, claims the Bodleian Library exhibition.

The Bright Sparks exhibition, which opens on Friday, has become the subject of a long-running debate over who first mastered the medium.

Although French inventor Louis Daguerre is often credited as the father of photography, it was actually Englishman William Henry Fox Talbot who made the first and most significant breakthroughs.

William Henry Fox Talbot is credited with producing the first negative

William Henry Fox Talbot is credited with producing the first negative

In the 1840s, Mr. Daguerre developed a chemical process for making “daguerreotypes,” a rudimentary form of photography that became popular throughout France in the years that followed.

However, the new exhibition sets out how Mr. Talbot’s intervention to produce the first negative in the 1830s was the most significant step forward, enabling the multiple reproduction of photographs.

“Fox Talbot invented photography, we can say that, but while his claim is as strong as any, he alone really gave photography the idea of ​​the negative, the inverted image, used to make more prints ‘ Phillip Roberts, curator of photography at the Bodleian Library, told The Guardian.

John Hannavy, a historian of photography and academic, told The Telegraph he was surprised there were any questions or doubts about who invented photography.

He said: “He invented the idea of ​​the ‘negative’ from which innumerable prints could be made, and his earliest negative was made in 1835.

One of William Henry Fox Talbot's early photographs, showing a man seated under an ash tree in Ugbrooke Park, Devon

One of William Henry Fox Talbot’s early photographs, showing a man seated under an ash tree in Ugbrooke Park, Devon

“He wrote a note next to what we now believe to be his earliest surviving negative – taken in August 1835 – to call attention to one of the many features of the photograph which any Victorian would have found particularly remarkable.

“That unique feature was the camera’s ability to miniaturize without sacrificing detail, creating an immediately apparent distinction between photography and painting.”

Giving the invention a name

Unlike Mr. Daguerre, who later put his name on his invention, Mr. Talbot, whose images became known as calotypes, chose not to.

His work in developing photographic techniques also extended well beyond these first inventions and he spent the rest of his life developing photographic technologies and techniques.

The exhibition features these early calotype experiments, as well as the British inventor’s entire archive, including examples of his early attempts at taking pictures with a glass electric discharge rod.

The exhibition also showcases how Talbot’s work has inspired future artists, alongside photographic work from the past by other notable contemporary photographers such as Hiroshi Sugimoto, Martin Parr and Alison Rossiter, as well as by Julia Margaret Cameron.

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