Henry Fox Talbot Research Essay

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William Henry Fox Talbot

Henry Fox Talbot was certainly a man who knew how to direct his frustrations towards advancement. October 1833 found the Englishman honeymooning by the shore of Lake Como. Talbot stood overlooking the glassy lake, dotted by villages and the needle points of distant mountains when his inspiration struck. Frustrated, he looked with disappointment at the camera lucida in front of him. An early form of a tracing machine, this device projected the image in front of it onto a drawing pad, so that an artist could trace over the details. Having completed his tracing of the lake, he inspected it, and found the results very unsatisfying. The pencil detail only showed a mediocre representation of the superbly detailed landscape. Talbot later recalled of the camera lucida that "when the eye was removed from the prism—in which all looked beautiful—I found that the faithless pencil had only left traces on the paper melancholy to behold." He wanted to capture the sweeping countryside in all of its beauty. So he took a few steps backwards through his memory, and found himself thinking about his old camera obscura. Another tracing tool, Talbot had found the obscura's penciled results just as unsatisfying. However, it wasn't the substandard marks that the obscura left behind that triggered his imagination, but rather the crystal clarity of the small lens. He recalled the detail and beauty of the mirrored projection, and longed to find away to tack this fleeting beauty to the paper permanently. This longing led down a road of invention and innovation, which would produce not only the first true cameras, but also the first method for developing photos. The date is in dispute, but in either 1835 or 1839, Talbot made his first picture. The picture was actually what we now call a negative, but the term was not coined until 1840. The picture was only the size of a postage stamp, the same as most negatives today, and it depicted the oriel...
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