TITLE: Monday Muse - Fox Talbot
DATE: 1/31/2005 05:23:00 AM
Something few people know about me... I have a GIGANTIC camera collection: little ones, big ones, Polaroids, tiny two-inch toys. You name it, I have it.
What I don't have is an ability to truly stick with the medium of photography. It requires precision and patience, which I don't particularly posess. Maybe this is why I find the tool photographers use so interesting. I believe that inside every photographer lies the heart of a surgeon. So, you can understand why I have such high regard for great photography and the camera itself.
William Henry Fox Talbot has more books written about him than I could hope to list. Known widely as Fox Talbot, his images are haunting. The reason why is very simple. He was one of the forefathers of the medium. Adapting his own process to print a photograph on paper, his images were truly ephemeral, fading over time. In addition, his subject matter, while widely ranging, often focused on fragile, fraile, or timely images: the haphazard pattern of milkweed seeds, the veins in leaves, the symmetry of palm fronds, the changing morning sun along a paneled wall, or above, the delicacy of handmade lace.
I recognize the artistic merit in Talbot's work. But, I also seet the craft inherent in his process. Adapting equipment to suit his needs, he was a craftsman. Serving practical functionality, his images act as documentary footage from the 1800's. This, too, is a craftsman.
And, like many officially acknowledged craftspeople who elevated the design found in simple forms like ceramic bowls, fine wood furniture, or even architecture, Talbot seared basic objects onto paper and time. Perhaps today, where nearly everyone owns a digital camera, we forget how incredible that is. Objects in his photos speak to us because, like Egyptian mummies, they were formed only with a great deal of time, intention, and persistence. (With all due respect, Kodak, you just can compete with that!)
My final proof that his work has blurred the lines between art and craft is actually from his own mouth, "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 art on a secure foundation."
How interesting, that the very foundation of our contemporary craft movement is pulled from the elements of craft traditions past.
I call Talbot an artist and a craftsman. What would you refer to him as?