The most expensive sold at auction for over $6.5 million; around one trillion are taken every day thanks to the ubiquity of the Smart phone; nearly all of us have taken them and own them. Few things are familiar to the average person than the photograph.
They are windows on the past, and where they have been faithfully reproduced rather than tampered with, provide us with the earliest unfettered and unfiltered clues to how we once lived.
When it comes to collecting, I can’t think of another discipline that it is as accessible or fascinating to the masses.
Vernacular or street photography has long been popular, never more so since then discovery of the extraordinary archive left by the unknown Vivian Maier (1926-2009), an American nanny who pursued a secret career as a street photographer for 40 years and whose work can now sell for thousands. From Victorian cartes de visites to anonymous everyday subjects that sell on eBay for a few pounds, this is a craze that keeps growing and keeps on giving.
So it is with some excitement that original works by the father of modern photography Sir William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-77) come to auction at Sotheby’s in April.
Featuring people, objects and places, including his celebrated home, Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire, the images date back to the early 1840s and include one of Lady Elisabeth Feilding c.1841, who was born in 1773, three years before the American Revolution.
Photographs bring local history alive. Precious relics, they create a unique connection that never existed before Fox Talbot and his fellow pioneers worked out how to fix those images in permanent form.