Celebrating 175 years of photography

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In 1839 William Henry Fox Talbot announced that he had invented the photographic negative, and shared his first image with the world. The intriguing story that lies behind the invention, and the man behind the lens, is commemorated at the Fox Talbot Museum in Lacock. Join us in 2014 as we celebrate the 175th anniversary of photography at its birthplace, Lacock Abbey.

Could you imagine a world without photography?

For us today it seems normal to take photos of the world around us. We use a camera or phone almost daily, snapping friends and family, beautiful landscapes, even the food we eat.

In the last 175 years photography has become one of the most important tools for artists and scientists but also to all of us to document our lives, from historical events to capturing family memories.

The process of making a photographic negative in the camera, and developing it into a positive print, accompanied us through the 20th century, and is of course still used today, alongside digital photography.

Capturing the light

The story that lies behind the invention of photography is no ordinary one. Scientists, artists and inventors took up the task of capturing the light at the start of the 19th century but it was not until Fox Talbot undertook a series of experiments at Lacock Abbey in 1834-1835 that the dream became reality.

Talbot captured the first photographic negative here, an image of a window at the abbey, not much bigger than a postage stamp. However, he did not announce his invention or publish his findings immediately.

It wasn’t until January 1839, the year that is now regarded by many as the year photography was born, that he announced his process and then only because a Frenchman named Daguerre claimed the invention for himself. By the end of January the race was on between the two men - who couldn’t have been more different - to claim the title ‘inventor of photography’.

The two processes, Talbot’s and Daguerre’s, varied greatly, with Daguerre’s one-of-a-kind images taking the lead in popularity at first, but it was Talbot’s negative/positive process that ultimately established itself as the process used up until the digital age.

Celebrating the anniversary at Lacock

We'll be celebrating the invention of photography and Fox Talbot’s life at Lacock throughout 2014 with special events and highlights at the property.

Visit the birthplace of photography and find out more about this fascinating story at the Fox Talbot Museum, with its brand-new museum displays telling you about the history of photography. The museum, grounds and the cloisters at Lacock are open daily from 10.30am to 5.30pm until 2 November, and from 11am to 4pm in winter. The abbey rooms are open every day (except Tuesday) from 11am to 5pm, and on weekends in winter.

For more information please visit our opening times page or call 01249 730459.