This brings up something that I wonder about: how much of the quality that we see today in these early photographs has been lost due to deterioration. Did the highlights show as washed out 160 years ago? I guess we will never know.
Originally Posted by Flotsam
According to my (very limited) reading, he was very influenced by the Dutch School of painting that was all the rage in England at the time. The Dutch School often showed everyday objects and people in a way that was rare until then where paintings were usually of religious events or of important people. There were often allegories in the work to do with man's lot. Open doors can be used to represent moving through one stage of life to another, or of death of course. The broom blocking the entrance and the lamp made available by the side of the door might mean something too, but I'm not well enough up on this stuff to decipher it...
Technically, good use of glancing light to accentuate texture and well exposed as there is good shadow detail inside the building... A bit obviously staged, but then you have to consider the date - (very) early pictorialism?
Very interesting responses so far!
Bob, when I read your remark about pictorialism, I was actually thinking about Talbot as an ur-f/64 because of the sharpness of the picture, even by paper negative standards... Your note about contrast remind me of that shop in the Halifax harbourfront that is selling prints from historical negatives. They enlarge negatives that were probably meant to be contact printed on long-scale papers, and the result is an excessive, obstrusive contrast that has become nonetheless accepted as the sign of an old photo.
I have found quite a few reproductions online of Talbot's photo, and some were way too contrasty, others were left-right reversed. The one good repro of that photo that I saw (and which made me love it instantly) was in a recent history of photography with a preface by Cartier-Bresson's daughter. I was struck by the quality of gradations in such an early photo, and how much the quality of light is preserved.
George and Ole: I'm fascinated too by the fact that the broom is just that, a bunch of twigs on a stick. Having a broom is a process, not a product! We should consider it now as an instance of alt-process broomaking.
Randy: I echo your feeling of comfort. In my reading, it is the low point of view that makes the viewer neither threatened nor threatening. The quality of light might be for something too. It looks hot and dry, and it makes me feel like when I was a kid and I spent my entire days outside, playing in the sand or otherwise, even under a sun that I now avoid (thinning hair...).
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, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11
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I like the image. Considering that this is one of the first photographs I find it rather amazing. This is Henry Fox Talbot's own view with no other photographic influences. The only 2 dimensional influences that he would have had would have been painting, pastel, and charcoal.
When I was a kid we had one such broom - I think dad made it out of a birch tree branch and some twigs. Worked well for sweeping the front porch...
I am struck by how well the presence of light has been preserved. There's a good range of tonality, from the gloom indoors to the lantern hanging in the sunshine. And how sharp the print appears to be. The broom, the open door and most important: the discernable window in the gloom. It's a welcoming, open door to a tidy home (if the broom was used!). Photography opens up to seeing the most mundane things anew.
Bill Hahns comment about HFTs first images seeming to be more "look what I did!" and the later more refined, is well put. It's too damn easy to get bogged down in getting technique and process right and forgetting about the image. This image succeeds to be more than only the technicalities. even if it may be an everyday subject. The image feels complete as a whole. Nothing more to add to it. Only problem is that a screen with low resolution probably can't convey half of what's really in there in the print. I am impressed that I can be able to enjoy a print that was made 152 years ago!
“Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.” - Lao Tzu
I tend to view this photograph on the basis of compositional elements rather than the rendering of highlights, shadows, sharpness of the included elements or of the type of broom that this is.
For instance this image is all about shapes, lines and textures to me...the “photography of known and readily identifiable objects” really has very little interest for me today.
The first thing that I notice is the mimicking of the diagonals in this image. By that I mean the diagonal shadow on the door mirrors exactly the angle of the diagonal of the broom handle. The curves of the vegetation on the left wall mirror the curves of the vegetation on the right wall. The lantern on the larger right wall surface contributes to resolving the relative imbalance seen in the smaller left wall surface. Furthermore the lantern is located at the point of interest of the upper right hand corner and it serves as balance to the location of the broom which is located in the lower left hand corner "point of interest" of the image. Last but certainly not least is the source of light deep within the composition that is rendered as the window located in the interior of the room. This source of light located deep within the image imparts the dimension of deep space in the composition. For me, the single greatest point of compositional tension within this image is the point at which the diagonal of the broom handle impinges upon the vertical line of the wall.
These are the things that I see that make this image effective and worthy of being called a fine photograph today after the passage of all of this time. I care nothing for why Talbot chose to photograph this scene…I don’t care whether he had cornflakes for breakfast or whether he had sex the evening before.
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As the person who first drew attention to the broom, I do not resent Donald's comments here - I will tend to obsess on the history of images rather than the
compositional aspects. (Which is why I'm looking forward a "Discussing a ***** photograph" where all of us don't already know the photographer or image...)
But I'm wondering whether Talbot thought about all those compositional details on this photograph?....or just did it instinctively or just lucked out. Like I said, his eye seemed to improve over time.....
"I bought a new camera. It's so advanced you don't even need it." - Steven Wright
I meant no disrespect of you or of anyone else. I intended to indicate my method of viewing a photograph. It is in viewing photographs that I have learned and still continue to learn. As I indicated earlier, I really don't personally care what may or may not have been involved in Talbots considerations toward making this image.
Originally Posted by Bill Hahn
I've seen this kind of stuff a Million times before.
Frankly, I find this image a painfully contrived and derivative attempt to pander the urban gallery elite. This guy is never going to have any impact on Photography.
That is called grain. It is supposed to be there.
Or was I?
Originally Posted by copake_ham
Oh, really still just kidding but....
Originally Posted by copake_ham