Sunday, 30 August 2009

Fox Talbot at Lacock Abbey,Wiltshire Pt.9

On a personal note before proceeding, we turned on our central heating today as we were cold - in August I ask you - and the forecast for the coming week (except tomorrow when it will be in the 80's) is for Autumnal weather - not yet please! The picture below is of the same beach shown in my last post from last weekend. People yesterday were all wrapped up and finding it hard to walk against the wind.

William Henry Fox Talbot - the father of modern photography and only son of William Davenport Talbot of Lacock Abbey.

Whilst visiting Lacock Abbey we took time to visit the Fox Talbot Museum sited at the entrance. I realised that as an avid photographer I just 'clicked' and took for granted that the outcome would be a replica of what I was looking at. There is obviously a lot more to the origins of modern photography and it was especially interesting to visit the place where it all began.

Although the museum is situated in the family home (Lacock Abbey)Talbot's photos are on display at the British Library in London.

William Henry Fox Talbot was born at Melbury in Dorset on 11th February 1800, at the home of the Earl of Ilchester; his Mother, Lady Elizabeth Fox-Strangeways, was the eldest daughter of the Earl. His Father, William Davenport Talbot, an army officer, died when Henry was only 6 months old so Lady Elizabeth and her son spent the early years of his life in the homes of various relatives.

A brilliant child and gifted scholar, he excelled, both at Harrow and Cambridge, in the classics and sciences.

In 1827 he returned to his ancestral home, Lacock Abbey, where he was Lord of the Manor. In 1832 he married Constance Mundy of Markeaton Hall in Derbyshire. That year he also became member of parliament for Chippenham, but only stayed for about 2 years.

His interests then took him abroad, particularly to Italy. On his travels he used a camera lucida and a camera obscura, optical aids to drawing, which gave him the idea of retaining permanently the images these aids produced.

From 1850 Fox Talbot concentrated on perfecting reproduction techniques, so that original photographs could b e reproduced as printed illustrations. He coated metal plates with bichromated gelatin using silk to form a screen pattern, patenting this process in 1852.

The span of Fox Talbot's life embraces an age of tremendous progress in the arts and sciences in Britain and Europe. When he died in September 1877, he was one of the rare people who had made significant contributions to the advances in both these fields.

Fox Talbot was a classicist as well as a scientist and contributed to many published papers and scientific works.

His two volumes on Classical and Antiquarian Researches, published by Longmans in 1838 put forward some new arguments,while his solutions to obtruse mathematical problems led to his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1831. In 1838 he was awarded the Society's Royal Medal for his research on the integral calculus, and in 1842 gained the Rumford Medal for his photographic discoveries.

In the 1850's, Fox Talbot began work on the Assyrian script, an interest that was to last the rest of his life. He became so expert in translating this complex cuneiform writing that he was asked to contribute as an examiner for the British Museum. He also gave financial support to archaeological expeditions.

(Information taken from The National Trust book on Fox Talbot - top photograph from same book)

Whilst in the Abbey grounds we went inside a room sized Camera Obscurer that was set up in the gardens. It was fascinating to be inside and have a view of the whole of one side of the abbey projected onto the wall through what seemed like a pinhole.

The Fox Talbot Museum also houses the work of other famous photographers from time to time. Whilst there the exhibition was showing some of the work of

Abelardo Morell

In the above pictures he had used a Camera Obscurer to superimpose scenes from outside a building onto the objects pictured from inside. There were lots of examples in the exhibition but I found that my camera only really dealt with the black and white images as I was taking them through glass and the lighting was obscuring the coloured images. For more detailed information go to this link.

How fortunate we are to be able to pick up a camera and just click as a result of the work of Fox Talbot.


Elizabethd said...

What a fascinating place Lacock is. So much to explore, and of course the fact that it was used to film Cranford makes it even more interesting to tourists!

Susan said...

What a different in those 2 beach shots. We are enjoying and relishing our cooler August temperatures :o)

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

What great information you have written on--I always learn something from you Barbara. The weather is getting cooler in the Upstate of South Carolina (70's most days this week)and I can feel fall is around the corner.
Tracy :)

Adrienne said...

Hi Barbara - I loved seeing the old photography information and equipment. Thanks for sharing it today. You always have such interesting things to show us - can't wait till I can see them in person someday.

Deanna said...

Hello from Kansas!
Blessings to you.
This is an interesting post and I enjoy seeing where you take us as we adventure about.
God bless,

Merisi said...

Truly fascinating post, Elizabeth!
All the information and the images you share with us speak of the blessings that are bestowed upon his if mankind pursues peaceful endeavours.
Thank you for taking the time to pass this on to us!

Anonymous said...

Our weather is wonderful here, a lot cooler than is usual. You have a huge difference in those two pics. That was an interesting post about the photography and location as well. I loved the pics of the grands in the previous post. You are so right about the MT. My back and legs got too bad to keep it up. I'm the one needing massage now. I ran into one of my former clients today and that is so strange since I had just been blogging about it.

Nana Trish is Living the Dream said...

This is a very educational and interesting post. I'm so happy it's getting closer to fall. The warm weather has worn out his welcome.

Charm and Grace said...

I enjoyed reading your comments today. This is a great post; we owe so much in our current "information and technology age" to those who came before and paved the way. It constantly amazes me what we are able to accomplish with the smallest of equipment these days.


Kate said...

Brilliant,as usual! Were you a teacher in a former life?????

Judy said...

What would we do without our cameras? Thanks for the history of photography lesson.

Anonymous said...

When you look for pics of places how they used to be usually a Fox Talbot image comes up. I wonder if he had a mission to photograph as much of the UK as possible too?

My Nana had an old box brownie in her house, I though am grateful for digital cameras as they allow you to delete the blurred images and not go to the expense of developing them, so you can take many photos and experiment and learn without a big cost.