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HomeContents > People > Photographers > William Thompson

Active:  Great Britain
 
  

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for William Thompson
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

 
  
While staying with a Mr. Hitchman in Yarmouth in 1841, Thompson sent examples of his earliest attempts at calotypy to Talbot. The inventor replied with encouraging advice, pointing out that he held a patent but did “not wish it to interfere with amateurs practising the art for their own amusement.” In 1844, writing from Tavern Street in Ipswich, Thompson expressed continuing frustration over the quality of paper and modestly assuring Talbot that “I practise the art entirely for my amusement & edification, & that I do not derive the smallest advantage from it, as you will readily believe, from the specimens.” In 1845, then staying with Mr. Howes in Happisburgh, Norfolk, Thompson again wrote to Talbot, saying that he had purchased a copy of The Pencil of Nature. He observed that Leaf of a Plant, the contact copy of a leaf, was a simple thing to make and respectfully hoped that Talbot would include more camera images in the next part (mirroring the advice that Talbot’s mother had already given him!). The only known surviving photograph by Thomson is Houses in Ipswich, a calotype dated March 1846 and preserved in one of Thomas Damant Eaton’s albums. William Thompson was too common a name to trace without further identification. However, it was unusual for Talbot to carry on a detailed correspondence with an amateur, and that he did in this case suggests one possibility. William Thompson (1823-1893), a baker’s son in Ipswich, was plagued by poor health and turned to the study of botany, cultivating a small but sophisticated garden behind his father’s shop. He soon became known as the “baker botanist.” Passionate about botany himself, Talbot is perhaps more likely to have corresponded with such a person. Thompson & Morgan seeds are now one of the leading British brands. 
  
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. 
  
SHARED BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION PROJECT 
  
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
 
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Portraits 
  
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