The final exhibition I saw at Tate Britain was Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840 – 1860. It was a fascinating exhibition with some of the earliest photographs ever taken on display. William Henry Fox Talbot pioneered a method of taking pictures with salted paper prints in 1839, the same year as Louis Daguerre invented the daguerrotype. Talbot’s images included pictures of china, glass, paper and people – including his daughter – as he explored the potential of the new medium. Other photographs on display include fascinating Paris landmarks including the Arc de Triomphe, images of India and the American Civil War, and the construction of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.
Later, Gustave Le Gray improved the salted paper print method by using waxed paper negative proofs. Further images displayed showcase the extra detail this method offered: the pyramids of Egypt, the Crimean war and ordinary life, in the shape of some Newhaven fishwives, are pictured. Early photography was inspired by portraiture when it came to pictures of people: pictures were often posed, but they were unique in being able to capture individuals, particularly children, at a specific moment in time. Most of the pictures are of ordinary people, but there is one notable image of French author Victor Hugo.
A fascinating exhibition, this is a must-see for anyone interested in photography or history.