Henry Fox Talbot's Open Door
I have two favorite 19thC photographs: one is Daguerre's earliest surviving still life, and another is Henry Fox Talbot's "The Open Door."
Pictorially, I appreciate the sharpness of the image, as well as the tonality of the door and the broomstick's knot. I find the composition to be well-balanced, with simple lines, and the tension between the diagonal of the broom against the vertical wall attracts the gaze towards the window that lies beyond the open door. Finally, the point of view is low enough that the viewer is at eye level with the person who would come out of the door and use the broom. The broom seems to have been hand made, out of available pieces of straw (or branches?), and its grassiness echoes the vines flanking the picture. The lamp hanging on the wall is waiting to be picked up for walking outside at night. It's a simple photo containing many scenes in waiting.
What I also find fascinating about the picture is its age: this photo is an eye upon the world before it knew about photography itself. This picture shows items of real life so far in time that no human memory is still alive to carry it as well. This photo is for me a time machine, the kind of which that reminds me of Barthes's fascination with old portraits: "These eyes have seen Napoleon." These door and broom has seen winters without electricities, and the less industrialized world. Everybody who has seen this world and lived then is now dead, but we can borrow their eyes.
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