Maureen at Lacock Abbey.jpg

Thoughts on this portfolio:

Various Photographers of Paris and London

---------------------------------------------- Talbot and Daguerre unleashed

Some time between 1835 and 1839, two inventors came up with a way to capture the ephemeral and fleeting images in a camera obscura. Louis Daguerre in France and Henry Fox Talbot in England found ways to hold fast the miniature worlds inside a camera and present the results to an amazed public. Their inventions, the Daguerreotype and the Calotype, began the process, joined now by both film and digital images, of saving for a viewer both a time and a place to be experienced later, a moment removed from the viewer’s present day and present circumstances.

Consideration was given to the automatic and mechanical nature of the photographic processes. Nature was, it was thought, recording itself. Without the human hand to create errors along the way in the process of describing the subject before the lens, could we assume a photograph was as close to natural truth as the process would allow?

Henry Fox Talbot claimed that it was the lack of his ability to draw a scene while on a holiday trip to Italy that eventually led to his discovery of the Calotype. At the time, he was using a mechanical drawing aid called a camera lucida. The lucida allowed him to trace an image superimposed on the paper with a prizim. In his book, The Pencil of Nature” he talked about how dissapointed he was with his drawing skils: “For when the eye was removed from the prism [of the Lucida] in which all looked beautiful I found that the faithless pencil had only left traces on the paper melancholy to behold.” When he returned from his extended say in Europe to his home at Lacock Abbey, he attempted to “cause these natural images to imprint themselves durably, and remain fixed upon the paper!” Needless to say, fixed on paper without the errors of the human hand.

Even before the photographic process was perfected, vacationers such as Talbot were using mechanical drawing aids to record their visits to distant spots. So it was very likely that when photographic methods were available to record these scenes without the “faithless pencil”, that the camera would be a natural companion on trips abroad.

Not soon after the announcement of their inventions and dissemination of information on the process, men and women went out to document the world with bulky cameras and complicated and inconvenient photographic processes. It’s possible that their motives were simply to document what they saw. I would like to believe, however, that a good part of their purpose was to bring back worlds that others had not seen and to prove that the visitor was there.**

It is now 174 years since photography was announced and 115 years since a small box camera made photography available to all who wished to record their holiday adventures. When I went to London and Paris in 2013, I was amazed to witness the number of visitors recording the scenes of their trip. Every possible recording device, from flip phones to DSLR’s were employed to record and document what the visitors saw, and who was there with them.In just three weeks I accumulated over 500 images of photographers and their subjects. (If I stayed longer in Trafalgar Square, I might have upped that number substantially!) In editing these down to the 87 in this book, I was pleased at how happy these photographers look, how pleasant this experience seems to be. If only from these images, one might assume that being photographed or making photographs is a pleasant way to spend your vacation.

The image on the right is my wife Maureen photographing Talbot’s house in Lacock, a returning of the favor, so to speak, for his invention. It pleases me to imagine that if Talbot could stand in Trafalgar Square (where he once made a Calotype of Nelson’s column) or Daguerre could stand now in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, and witness the joy caused by the current iterations of their inventions, they would be pleased with what they accomplished so long ago.