Impressed by light: British photographs from paper negatives 1840-1869
The paper negative calotype process introduced by Fox Talbot in 1840 proved to be the conceptual basis for negative/positive photography until the recent dominance of digital imaging. The standard histories of photography suggest that it flourished during the 1840s, but went into rapid decline during the 1850s with the introduction of the collodion on glass process in 1851. My research into the history of the calotype revealed that the very opposite was the case and that its greatest flowering occurred during the 1850’s when it was widely adopted by gentleman amateurs whose motives were to legitimise photography as one of the polite arts. Using primary source materials such as exhibition catalogues, with their accompanying reviews in the 19th century periodic press, correspondence archives, photographic collections nationally and internationally, a detailed picture emerged that was entirely new to photographic scholarship. Instead of the handful of calotypists found in the standard histories, over 500 individuals have now been identified, the majority being new to scholarship. The exhibition and catalogue is based on this revisionist history and though the exhibition covers the period 1840-1860, the catalogue deals with the eventual decline during the 1860s and the rekindling of interest in paper negatives by the pictorialists some forty years later. The four main sections of the exhibition are mirrored in the catalogue with full colour reproductions of all 120 exhibits. The catalogue also includes a biographical dictionary of British calotypists based on my researches and those of my colleague, Prof. Larry Schaaf, who wrote the entries. Discussions are underway for a French edition of the catalogue. Following its opening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The New Yorker commented the show was “predictably scholarly but unexpectedly ravishing.” During its three-month run in New York it is anticipated over 100,000 visitors will visit the exhibition. Major research project resulting in a book and international touring exhibition: Taylor, R. and Schaaf, L.J. (2007) Impressed by Light: British photographs from paper negatives 1840-1869, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press, p452, ISBN 9780-300-124057 Impressed by Light: British photographs from paper negatives 1840-1869 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 24 Sept - 30 Dec 2007; touring to National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 3 Feb - 4 May 2008 and Musée d'Orsay, Paris 26 May - 7 Sept 2008
Citation : TAYLOR, R.J. (2007) Impressed by Light: British photographs from paper negatives 1840-1869. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press.
Research Group : Photographic Studies and Creative Imaging
- Leicester Media School