William Henry Fox Talbot was an amateur artist, who began experimenting with recording images from a camera obscura in much the same way as Niepce and Daguerre. Using thin layers of silver nitrate on sheets of paper he was able to keep to quite a short exposure time, and take pictures of leaves and lace as early as 1834. However, his real breakthrough came the following year, when he realised that a transparent image (now known as a 'negative' because it produces a mirror image of the subject) could be re-photographed to produce a positive print, and that this process could be repeated as many times as the photographer required.
Talbot's first images were 'developed' during the taking of the photograph. It was only after he heard of Daguerre's work that he started producing negatives that were developed later in a dark room. He called his new process the 'calotype' (from the Greem meaning beautiful) but it was far more widely known as the 'Talbotype'.
After Talbot, the history of photography developed rapidly. Glass plates were once again substituted for the paper used by Talbot, because they allowed a far more detailed image to be produced. Eventually these plates were made available ready-prepared, so that photographers did not have to paint the sensitized compound on themselves. The new plates used a gelatin-based coating, which stayed usable for longer, and was able to capture images within a fraction of a second, rather than the many minutes that had been required before.
All this led to widespread use of photographs for producing portraits, images of buildings and of natural landmarks. Many different people set themselves up as portrait photographers, and amateur picture-takers became a common sight. However, for the history of moving pictures, it was down to one or two photographers to show the way forwards. Click on to the next page to find out about them.
You can find out more about Fox Talbot at the Fox Talbot Museum.
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