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...).