First Photographs by Arthur Ollman
William Henry Fox Talbot and the Birth of Photography

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First Photographs is an extraordinary view into the origins of photography. This landmark monograph—the only book on Talbot to be authored by the Fox Talbot museum’s curator—includes many never-before-published images of landscapes, architectural studies, and portraits from Talbot’s personal archive and selections from his detailed research notebooks made during the 1830s and 1840s and currently housed at Lacock Abbey in Chippenham, England.

A gentleman and an intellectual, Talbot was a great student of the Arts and Sciences and kept detailed notes of his activities and experiments. He discovered the negative/positive paper process which made multiple reproductions of a single image possible, and which distinguished it from its contemporary, the one-of-a-kind daguerreotype. Talbot first announced his invention to the public in 1839 in his paper, “An Account Of The Art of Photogenic Drawing Or The Process By Which Natural Objects May Be Made To Delineate Themselves Without The Aid Of The Artist’s Pencil.” The work he did during this time established, in principle and in practice, the foundation of modern photography—the basis of the process that is still used today.

In addition to Talbot’s technological contributions, his photographs represent exceptional artistic achievement. First Photographs includes a significant text by the preeminent Talbot scholar today, Michael Gray, who provides a comprehensive essay, biography, and timeline of Talbot’s eventful life and revolutionary work. Arthur Ollman, director of the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, gives an in-depth analysis of the aesthetic and social significance of Talbot’s first image, “Oriel Window.” Curator Carol McCusker considers how the Romantic Movement and the women of the Lacock household influenced Talbot’s aesthetic choices. First Photographs and the accompanying exhibition provide a rare opportunity for contemporary audiences to experience these uncommon images and the personal, cultural, and scientific contexts in which they were made.

About Arthur Ollman

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MICHAEL GRAY is Music Librarian for the Voice of America in Washington. Arthur Ollman is internationally recognized as a photographer, curator, and writer. He is currently the director of the School of Art, Design and Art History at San Diego State University. He was, for twenty-three years, the director of the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego. He has written numerous books and articles about photography and curated more than one hundred photographic exhibitions. Ollman's photographic career has spanned more than forty years. He is best known for his night photographs of urban spaces, which have been exhibited and collected by museums and galleries worldwide. Carol McCusker is curator of photography at the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego. She has curated numerous exhibitions and has contributed to several books. She lives in San Diego.
Published October 1, 2002 by powerHouse Books. 144 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

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