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HomeContentsOnline exhibitions > Henry Fox Talbot: The Pencil of Nature

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Henry Fox Talbot 
The Ladder 
[The Pencil of Nature, Part 3, pl. 14] 
1844 (published) 
  
Calotype 
Hans P. Kraus, Jr., Inc. 
Taken from the reproductions in Larry J. Schaaf, H. Fox Talbot's The Pencil of Nature; Anniversary Facsimile (New York: Hans P. Kraus, Jr. Inc., 1989). The originals selected for this publication were the best single examples available for each plate. Not to be reproduced without permission of H.P. Kraus, Jr. 
  
 
LL/18331 
  
Portraits of living persons and groups of figures form one of the most attractive subjects of photography, and I hope to present some of them to the Reader in the progress of the present work.
 
When the sun shines, small portraits can be obtained by my process in one or two seconds, but large portraits require a somewhat longer time. When the weather is dark and cloudy, a corresponding allowance is necessary, and a greater demand is made upon the patience of the sitter. Groups of figures take no longer time to obtain than single figures would require, since the Camera depicts them all at once, however numerous they may be: but at present we cannot well succeed in this branch of the art without some previous concert and arrangement. If we proceed to the City, and attempt to take a picture of the moving multitude, we fail, for in a small fraction of a second they change their positions so much, as to destroy the distinctness of the representation. But when a group of persons has been artistically arranged, and trained by a little practice to maintain an absolute immobility for a few seconds of time, very delightful pictures are easily obtained. I have observed that family groups are especial favourites: and the same five or six individuals may be combined in so many varying attitudes, as to give much interest and a great air of reality to a series of such pictures. What would not be the value to our English Nobility of such a record of their ancestors who lived a century ago? On how small a portion of their family picture galleries can they really rely with confidence!
 
H. Fox Talbot, The Pencil of Nature, (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1844) 
 
 
  
 
  
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