Capturing the Light: The Birth of Photography, a True Story of Genius and Rivalry [NOOK Book]

Overview


An intimate look at the journeys of two men—a gentleman scientist and a visionary artist—as they struggled to capture the world around them, and in the process invented modern photography

During the 1830s, in an atmosphere of  intense scientific enquiry fostered by the industrial revolution, two quite different men—one in France, one in England—developed  their own dramatically different photographic processes in total ignorance of ...

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Capturing the Light: The Birth of Photography, a True Story of Genius and Rivalry

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Overview


An intimate look at the journeys of two men—a gentleman scientist and a visionary artist—as they struggled to capture the world around them, and in the process invented modern photography

During the 1830s, in an atmosphere of  intense scientific enquiry fostered by the industrial revolution, two quite different men—one in France, one in England—developed  their own dramatically different photographic processes in total ignorance of each other's work. These two lone geniuses—Henry Fox Talbot in the seclusion of his English country estate at Lacock Abbey and Louis Daguerre in the heart of post-revolutionary Paris—through diligence, disappointment and sheer hard work overcame extraordinary odds to achieve the one thing man had for centuries been trying to do—to solve the ancient puzzle of how to capture the light and in so doing make nature 'paint its own portrait'.  With the creation of their two radically different processes—the Daguerreotype and the Talbotype—these two giants of early photography  changed the world and how we see it.

Drawing on a wide range of original, contemporary sources and featuring plates in colour, sepia and black and white, many of them rare or previously unseen, Capturing the Light by Roger Watson and Helen Rappaport charts an extraordinary  tale of genius, rivalry and human resourcefulness in the quest to produce the world's first photograph.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
10/01/2013
Photography has been in existence for over 150 years, and it is hard to imagine a world without it. This informative and accessible book tells the story of 19th-century inventors who struggled to find a process to make images with camera and light. By 1839, two men had succeeded: English gentleman scientist William Henry Fox Talbot and charismatic French impresario L.J.M. Daguerre. Unaware of the other's existence, the men announced their inventions mere months apart. Here, Watson (curator, Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock Abbey) and historian Rappaport (A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy) describe the decades of struggle and discovery leading to the momentous announcement, recount the lives of two extraordinary men, and explain the technical advances and social impact of the following decades that made photography universal, affordable, influential, and practical. In almost every respect, 19th-century photography differs from today's digital medium. This work introduces readers to that earlier world, vanished except in images. VERDICT An approachable introduction to the subject for general readers. Those looking for greater depth should seek out Stephen C. Pinson's Speculating Daguerre: Art and Enterprise in the Work of L.J.M. Daguerre and H.J.P. Arnold's William Henry Fox Talbot: Pioneer of Photography and Man of Science.—Michael Dashkin, New York
Publishers Weekly
10/28/2013
On a hot August day in 1835 in the small village of Lacock, Wiltshire, British former parliamentarian, amateur scientist, and writer Henry Fox Talbot was experimenting with permanently capturing images from nature and created a small, delicate image of a latticed window—the first photographic negative. Little did he know that stage designer Louis Daguerre had been pursuing the same goal since the 1820s, and had begun collaborating with amateur scientist Nicephore Niépce to develop a photographic process. Here, historians Watson, curator of the Fox Talbot Museum, and Rappaport (The Last Days of the Romanovs) offer an energetically written and deftly paced history of photography’s origins, including the intricate rivalries surrounding Talbot and Daguerre’s laborious attempts to permanently capture images seen through the camera obscura. A brief, though informative, history of optics, the camera obscura, and the Lunar Men (a small society of inventors and amateur scholars whose published accounts would be essential to photography’s realization) preface the authors’ portraits of Daguerre and Talbot. Daguerre garnered the bulk of the fame for announcing his discovery in 1839, four years after Talbot had created the first photograph. Though Daguerre reaped many more commercial rewards, Talbot emerges as a humble, hardworking genius in this gripping popular history. Two eight-page color photo inserts. Agent: Charlie Viney, the Viney Agency. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
"A dual biography of Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot, two men who separately announced inventions of photographic processes in France and England in 1839. The book is very readable, even exciting—good on the science and particularly good on the characters and social backgrounds of the two men. . . . Silver nitrate has been superseded by pixels for image making, but it was once the cutting edge, with all the excitement that goes with the miraculous." —Wall Street Journal

"A well-timed and welcome history of the invention and spread of photography in the nineteenth century." —Booklist

"An energetically written and deftly paced history of photography’s origins, including the intricate rivalries surrounding Talbot and Daguerre’s laborious attempts to permanently capture images seen through the camera obscura . . . gripping popular history." —Publishers Weekly

“Rappaport offers an absorbing, perceptive, and detailed picture of a constitutional monarchy in crisis.” —Publishers Weekly on A Magnificent Obsession

“As shocking and immediate as a thriller. . . . [A] gripping read.” —People magazine

(3 ½ stars) on The Last Days of the Romanovs

“Quite simply, stunning. . . . Chilling and poignant, this is how history books should be written.” —Alison Weir, author of Henry VIII: The King and His Court on The Last Days of the Romanovs

Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-01
Watson, the curator of the Fox Talbot Museum, and historian Rappaport (A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy, 2013, etc.) develop the intricate history of photography. The appropriate hardware was, of course, known from antiquity in the form of the camera obscura. What wasn't accomplished until the 19th century was the fixing of the evanescent image projected in the back of that simple box. "Such is human inventiveness," write the authors, "that it was not long in the new…century before some of those who looked at the images in the camera obscura began wondering whether they could push the boundaries of its use." Many devoted amateurs worked assiduously on the challenge to capture the light with chemical solutions on paper or on metal. Some worked alone; others shared their results. Among the researchers were Francois Arago, Tom Wedgwood and Alphonse Hubert. In Paris, the inventor Nicéphore Niépce produced negative images but never thought to print positives from them. Then, in 1839, Niépce's former partner, the scenic artist and showman Louis Daguerre (1787–1851) displayed to an amazed world portraits and pictures of street scenes made by nature itself. The Daguerreotype was a sensation. By then, across the Channel, English polymath Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877) had devised the calotype process and a way to utilize a negative to produce multiple images on paper; he had not announced it with fanfare. First conceived of as a tool for artists and scientists, by the second half of the century, photography became a popular craze, especially in the United States. For Daguerre and Talbot, many honors, and patent disputes, followed. Then came tintypes, cartes de visite and stereopticons. Photojournalism pursued war and politics. Improvements in commercial printing and color processes promoted photography. Today, snapshots of Martian landscapes are commonplace. An unbiased, worthwhile recollection of the marvelous invention of photography.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250038326
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/26/2013
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 306,004
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author


ROGER WATSON is a world authority on the early history of photography. He is currently the Curator of the Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock Abbey and an occasional lecturer at DeMontfort University in Leicester.

HELEN RAPPAPORT is a historian with a specialization in the nineteenth century. She is the author of eight published books, including The Last Days of the Romanovs and A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death that Changed the Monarchy.

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  • Posted June 6, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    A very good book, very informative.

    A very good book, very informative.

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    Posted April 6, 2014

    Opalsong Everwind

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