We’re having a week’s break in Salisbury at the moment. Our first out-and-about event was a visit to the nearby National Trust property, Lacock Abbey. Lacock just happens to be the home of the Fox Talbot photography museum. William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of the photographic negative, lived there. The museum is quite small, but is a fascinating narrative on the early development of the technology that we now take for granted.
The story of the parallel efforts of Fox Talbot in England and Daguerre in France was engaging enough, but made even more intriguing when considering that these pioneers were starting from absolute scratch. There were no other clues or results from others working in the same field to build upon, so their achievements were remarkable, also considering that they were essentially competitors. Whether photography as we know it would have developed to what it is now is debatable, of course, but their early work certainly moved it on and created the foundations for what has followed. The transition from film to digital is arguably as significant, but it’s worth remembering that Fox Talbot and Daguerre were working alone, and didn’t have the vast resources and expertise that today’s corporations have at their disposal.
The unplanned museum visit was made even better by the sheer coincidence of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition. This is a genre that I have zero knowledge of, and have never attempted, beyond a few hand-held shots of the moon, but this show has stunning photos of nebulae, planets and even a detail shot the surface of the sun. It doesn’t need a great understanding of the techniques involved to appreciate the majesty of the images.
As if this wasn’t enough for one visit, it was topped off by a quick diversion into the Abbey’s second-hand book shop, where I picked up the three very different titles shown below for a total of £6.00.