Singular Images, Failed Copies

An impressive and well-researched study, which engages the philosophical and scientific milieu informing Talbot’s early photography. It is highly recommended to Talbot scholars.

Singular Images, Failed Copies (Vered Maimon)In Singular Images, Failed Copies, Vered Maimon investigates William Henry Fox Talbot and his connection with early photography. After H. J. P. Arnold’s, Gail Buckland’s, and Larry Schaaf’s monographic works and studies on Talbot—first published in the 1970s and making essential original sources accessible—a renewed interest in Talbot and early photography has occurred. On the one hand, this could be linked to Schaaf’s online research project on Talbot’s correspondence ( or more recently his work on a catalogue raisonné. Also, there are newly acquired Talbot records such as photographs, notebooks, and ephemera purchased in 2006 by the British Library, as well as Talbot’s personal archive acquired by the Bodleian Library in 2014. On the other hand, the presumed rediscovery of a “first” photograph in 2008 and its attribution to Thomas Wedgwood once again raises important questions concerning the “beginning” or “origin” of photography. Criticism therefore challenges not only the birth of photography in 1839 and the definition of photography as such, but also narratives concerning photo-historiographical writing. Consequently, contexts, places, and actors that have been included or left out of photography history are being reconsidered through a meta-historical analysis (see Tanya Sheehan and Andrés Mario Zervigón, eds., Photography and Its Origins, New York: Routledge, 2015).

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By: Katharina Steidl