The history of photography

A visitor looks at the display in the Fox Talbot Museum in Lacock in Wiltshire

One man’s ambition changed the way we would see the world, forever. The Fox Talbot Museum celebrates the life and work of William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-77). Fox Talbot created the earliest surviving photographic negative in 1835, taken of a small window at his home, Lacock Abbey.

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.

Who would guess that all this started at Lacock Abbey in 1835 - then the home to William Henry Fox Talbot, Victorian polymath. Frustrated by his inability to paint and draw, he wanted to find a way to 'fix images'. He wrote:

" How charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durably and remain fixed upon the paper! And why should it not be possible? I asked myself."
- William Henry Fox Talbot

After some experiments Talbot took an image of a window at his home Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire in 1835. This image, not much bigger than a stamp, is now celebrated as the world’s earliest surviving photographic negative.

Discover the history of photography on the ground floor

Go back in time from iPhone to Fox Talbot's mousetrap camera and discover how photography came to be. Learn about the history of photography, the chemistry behind Talbot's process and find out how two man entered into a race to claim the title 'inventor of photography'.

Henry Talbot invented the photographic negative at Lacock Abbey
Early photograph of William Henry Fox Talbot who owned Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire


Experience the art of photography on the upper gallery

In the Fox Talbot museum gallery on the first floor you will find changing photography exhibitions, celebrating Talbot's legacy by showing photography as an art form.