Early Norfolk Photographs
1840 - 1860
Photogenic Drawing
Henry Talbert
Henry Talbot From a printed book
Photogenic drawing, 1839
[National Media Museum]
 Henry Talbot
Antoine Claudet
Henry Talbot
Daguerreotype, 1845
[The British Library]

In January 1839 an announcement was made on behalf of an Englishman, Henry Talbot who, in 1834, discovered a process that he called ‘Photogenic Drawing’, a tonally negative image made of silver particles within the fibres of plain paper. To do this he immersed plain paper in a halide solution (usually of common salt - sodium chloride), and after it dried, made it light sensitive it by coating it with a solution of silver nitrate. Outline or shadow images of objects could be made either by placing them on the sensitized paper in direct sunlight, or made ‘in camera’ when exposures lasted an hour or so. The image was fixed by soaking the paper in a halide solution or, more effectively, sodium thiosuphite (‘hypo’). Talbot patented his process in 1839.

When compared with the Daguerreotype, the photogenic drawing offered the distinct advantage that multiple positive prints, exactly repeatable pictorial statements2, could easily and quickly be made from it. They were made by letting sunlight pass through the paper negative (sometimes waxed to improve translucency) in contact with another sheet of light sensitized paper in a glazed printing frame. Thus the tonal values were reversed and the resulting image appeared ‘normal’. Early paper prints have a lower resolution that of the Daguerreotype, and a painterly appearance. They’re known as salted paper prints in Europe and salt prints in the USA. Talbot soon improved his negative process to reduce long exposure times and he patented the process which he named the Calotype.

In 1834, in a remote area of Brazil, Hercule Florence used the term ‘photographie’, but it wasn’t until March 1839 when John Herschel independently used the term ‘photography’ to describe the negative/positive process, that it entered common use worldwide.

Henry Talbot
[Agrostis gigantia]
Photogenic drawing, 1839
[National Media Museum] ]
Caleb Rose
Caleb Rose [Association print]
“An early attempt at photography from Norwich”
Photogenic drawing, circa 1840
[The Royal Society]