Capturing the Light: The Birth of Photography, a True Story of Genius and Rivalry

Watson, Roger & . St. Martin's. Nov. 2013. 304p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781250009708. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250038326. PHOTOG
Photography has been in existence for over 150 years, and it is hard to imagine a world without it. This informative and accessible book tells the story of 19th-century inventors who struggled to find a process to make images with camera and light. By 1839, two men had succeeded: English gentleman scientist William Henry Fox Talbot and charismatic French impresario L.J.M. Daguerre. Unaware of the other's existence, the men announced their inventions mere months apart. Here, Watson (curator, Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock Abbey) and historian Rappaport (A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy) describe the decades of struggle and discovery leading to the momentous announcement, recount the lives of two extraordinary men, and explain the technical advances and social impact of the following decades that made photography universal, affordable, influential, and practical. In almost every respect, 19th-century photography differs from today's digital medium. This work introduces readers to that earlier world, vanished except in images.
VERDICT An approachable introduction to the subject for general readers. Those looking for greater depth should seek out Stephen C. Pinson's Speculating Daguerre: Art and Enterprise in the Work of L.J.M. Daguerre and H.J.P. Arnold's William Henry Fox Talbot: Pioneer of Photography and Man of Science.
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