|Dates: ||1809 - 1879|
|Active: ||Great Britain|
Foster’s family was long involved with the Society of Arts, and after becoming a lawyer he was elected into the society. After a brief stint as treasurer, Foster (over the strenuous objections of Robert Hunt) was elected secretary of the society in 1853, a full-time position that gave him considerable influence over matters of art and science. In 1847 Foster joined with Peter Wickens Fry and a few others in an informal group popularly known as the Calotype Club, the first indication of his interest in the new art. He began producing calotypes in the late 1840s, many of which survive today. Foster helped plan the Great Exhibition of 1851, which brought photography to a wide public for the first time, and even more importantly the groundbreaking exhibition at the Society of Arts in 1852. While he did not himself exhibit in the latter, Foster took an active role in the formation of the Photographic Society in London the following year, later gracefully conceding defeat in his attempts to have it remain a part of the Society of Arts. Foster first began showing his waxed-paper views in the 1854 exhibitions of Photographic Society and the Royal Infirmary Fund, and was instrumental in setting up Society of Arts touring exhibitions from 1854 to 1856, contributing waxed-paper views. For the Photographic Society’s 1860 exhibition, Foster turned to the turpentine waxed-paper process for his “untouched” view of the Chelsea Suspension Bridge. At the 1862 International Exhibition in London two years later, he again used the turpentine process to depict a suspension bridge, this time at Battersea. Foster’s last known contribution to an exhibition was a group of twelve portraits in the 1865 Dublin International Exhibition; the process was not specified but was almost certainly collodion. Throughout the 1850s Foster served as a critical link between the long-established Society of Arts and the youthful Photographic Society. He maintained an interest in photography until the end of his life, most notably photographing the erection of Cleopatra’s Needle on the Thames embankment the year before he died.
Roger Taylor & Larry J. Schaaf Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007)
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is included here with permission.
Date last updated: 4 Nov 2012.
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