A fox in the hen house

Toronto. Talbot was a well off Englishman who painted landscapes in watercolour. On a European trip in 1834, He chose Lake Como in Italy for one painting. Using a Camera Lucida, he dreamed about being able to capture the scene on his sketch pad, not just project it via the Camera Lucida.

Coming home to England he experimented with Wedgwood’s silver nitrate solution and paper and quickly realized a salt solution would make the images from ¬†his tiny cameras (he called them his mouse traps) insensitive to light once again. Only the images were negative! Using the developed paper negative on top of a second sensitized paper in sunlight created a positive and a salt bath “fixed” its permanence.

When he first heard Daguerre’s announcement, he was dumbfounded. Unlike Niepce or Daguerre who experimented to find commercial solutions, Talbot served only himself. Shocked into action, he rushed to announce his system of photography¬†by the end of January 1839. While grainy due to the use of a paper negative, the principal of a negative and a positive print became the standard. The Daguerreotype was a one-off positive whereas the salt negative of Talbot could have many positive Calotypes as he later called them.

What a month was January 1839 – not one but two viable processes. The world would never be the same!


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