Do you ever fall into the mythical idea that success just springs upon those trail blazers of times past? Sometimes the success is so celebrated that the pathway towards it is obscured by the shining glory of that moment of genius. I have! And I’ve realised it works quite well as a water tight alibi for not putting myself out there too much in case it all falls into a piling heap of failure. It has taken me time, alongside many reminders along the way, to realise maybe there’s some whopping great holes in that theory! A visit to Lacock Abbey was not only beautiful and fascinating, as so many National Trust properties are, but also an enlightening insight into the life and studies of Mr Fox Talbot who resided there.
I had heard of Fox Talbot many years ago whilst studying photography, and glanced over the facts without too much thought, taking for granted the fact that the whole reason I had the subject of photography to study was partly down to the dedication and passion this person had for the science behind capturing and retaining a photographic image.
Photography began very much as a scientific pursuit, alongside the creative benefits. This was perfect for Fox Talbot who had both an interest in and experience with chemistry as well as a keen interest in the study of botany. Due to his lack of artistic ability, he wanted to find a way to capture images of specimens without the need to be a skilled artist. His motivation and passion for the photographic world was born out of a lack of artistic skill; rather than letting this bring him into a deep gloom it pushed him on to make many scientific discoveries by exploring his curiosity. That’s a great set of life skills right there!
There were many failures along the way, but curiosity, determination and resilience came through, and look where we are today! In his words:
“…I do not profess to have perfected an Art, but to have commenced one; the limits of which it is not possible at present exactly to ascertain.
I only claim to have based this new Art upon a secure foundation: it will be for more skilful hands than mine to rear the superstructure.”
– Fox Talbot 1839
A truly inspiring moment in history, for which I’m grateful, as I get to enjoy this wonderful art form pretty much everyday. What a different world it would be without photography in it!