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  1. #1
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    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.

    Photo taken from:
    http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/tlb...L.1995.2.7.htm
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails hb_L.1995.2.7.jpg  
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  2. #2
    Bill Hahn's Avatar
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    It's interesting to compare early efforts by Talbot with his later work. The first images seem almost to be mostly about the process "look I fixed an image of whatever", and the later images showed much more sensitivity to composition and subject. His "eye" seemed to have definitely improved over time.

    Look at that broom. If I'm not mistaken, it's the old-fashioned circular type, not the "flat" broom we're used to today.

    (Short story: while I was visiting a historical farmhouse in Western Pennsylvania, one of the caretakers cleaning up the place left a broom standing by an open door. I made a snapshot, thinking of Talbot and this photograph....)
    "I bought a new camera. It's so advanced you don't even need it." - Steven Wright

  3. #3
    copake_ham's Avatar
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    Well working with curves and levels in PS we could certainly "fix" the contrast and tonality -- just kidding!!

    Actually, the OP said pretty much all there is in terms of composition etc.

    Picture makers (be they photogs or painters or sketchers etc.) always find open doors (or similar portals) an almost irresistable image. It make the viewer curious - what's inside? Why did the person leave the broom right in the doorway - was she or he distracted by something that needed tending to inside such that they did not have time to put away the broom - or even close the door behind them!

    As Bill says above - a photo like this "sticks in your mind" and some day or other you find a similar scene and just "have" to shoot that picture. I guess this is what is meant by an "icon picture" - one that once viewed remains in our subconcious to inform us in the future.

    Great shot and great choice for discussion.

  4. #4
    Ole
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Hahn
    Look at that broom. If I'm not mistaken, it's the old-fashioned circular type, not the "flat" broom we're used to today.
    That's a real broom. A bundle of twigs tied around a handle.
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  5. #5
    reellis67's Avatar
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    I too get an immediate sense of wonder about who left the broom, what is inside, etc. from this picture. The strong sense of place created by the vines, the lantern, and the window inside the building, make this image seem comfortable and easy to view. I don't feel compelled to look for the technical aspects like I would an abstract photo, rather I can simply view and enjoy the simplicity of it.

    - Randy

  6. #6
    Bill Hahn's Avatar
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    Talbot's home, Lacock Abbey, which figures in many of his images, was used in a
    Harry Potter movie.....

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/wiltshire/inter.../gallery.shtml

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    Quote Originally Posted by reellis67
    I too get an immediate sense of wonder about who left the broom,
    - Randy
    the photographer (or his gardner) no doubt. And certainly most carefully arranged for effect!


    This is one of my favourite Fox Talbot pictures:


  8. #8
    roteague's Avatar
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    I like the image, purely from a historical point of view. Love looking at old images of how people used to live.
    Robert M. Teague
    www.visionlandscapes.com
    www.apug.org/forums/portfolios.php?u=2235

    "A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist" -- Louis Nizer

  9. #9

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    Lacock Abbey is open to the public with free admission if you're a National Trust member. It looks much as it did when Fox Talbot lived there and took his photos so you can relate the photos to current actuality. There's a photographic museum detailing his experiments and taking the visitor into the 20th century. When I was there about 3 years ago, there wasn't a digi in sight.Presumably because it's the history of analogue photography.

    Well worth a visit if you're in Wiltshire.

    pentaxuser

  10. #10
    Flotsam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by copake_ham
    Well working with curves and levels in PS we could certainly "fix" the contrast and tonality -- just kidding!!
    LOL. But seriously, the shot would have been much improved if he had brushed up on the Zone System before he took it.

    That is called grain. It is supposed to be there.
    =Neal W.=

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