Daguerre and Talbot’s Understanding Of Photography – Essay
The metaphors used by Daguerre and Talbot (“the pencil of nature” etc) reveal an understanding of photography as a tool for the areas of art and science, rather than an artistic medium in its own right.
When Talbot writes, “let Nature substitute her own inimitable pencil”, we see an idea that while the hand of man makes this process possible, it is the hand of nature that actually creates the image, and as such it could never be seen as creative or artistic in terms of a painting – man merely triggers the process, and is not a creative contributor to the finished photograph. So the photo is not seen as a window to the world but as a remove, a process of Nature drawing herself, giving its own impression of itself. As such, the scientific and the artistic uses for photography are given fairly equal footing. We can see in William Talbot’s “The breakfast table” 1840 this convergence. While demonstrating to the viewer the detail that can be gained by the camera, the photo clearly echoes the still life painting genre in its composition and subject, but also anticipates scientific survey and collection work, especially of the colonialists.