Verdens første fotografi?

Et fotografi, kun kalt "Leaf", er lagt ut for salg av Sotheby's, og det spekuleres i om dette kan være verdens første fotografi. En mulig opphavsmann til dette fotogarfiet er Thomas Wedgwood. Hans forsøk på å fiksere bilder i camera obscura ved hjelp av lysfølsomme stoffer er en del av fotohistorien. Wedgwood lagde fotogrammer av blader og lignende ved å impregnere papir med sølvnitrat og belyse det i solen. Men hittil har historikerne antatt at han ikke klarte å gjøre lystegningene holdbare.

Sotheby's sier at "Leaf" kan være verket til flere opphavsmenn, deriblant Thomas Wedgwood, James Watt or Humphry Davy, som alle eksperimenterte med fotografiske avbildningsteknikker. Dersom dette holder stikk kan det første fotografiet ha blitt laget allerede i 1790.

Historien om bildet er beskrevet ganske inngående i auksjonkatalogen:
"In 1984, Sotheby's in London sold a small group of anonymous photogenic drawings that were originally part of an album assembled by one Henry Bright. The photogenic drawing offered here was among that group, and after the Sotheby's sale, it was re-attributed to William Henry Fox Talbot. Dr. Larry Schaaf, the Talbot authority, has questioned that attribution, and in the essay below, explores other possibilities of authorship, including Thomas Wedgwood or members of his circle.

It may seem surprising that photogenic drawings are such very rare survivors. William Henry Fox Talbot published the full details of how to make them by February 1839. While fraught with uncertainties, the process was relatively simple, used readily available materials and was widely published in the popular journals in the months following Talbot's disclosure. Public demonstrations were given and kits of materials advertised in the newspapers. One must assume that many hundreds of amateurs, scientists, artists, and others were fascinated by getting nature to draw her own image. Following Talbot's published instructions, an experimenter had only to take a sheet of writing paper, soak it in a weak solution of common table salt, and then brush it with silver nitrate. Light sensitive silver chloride would be formed within the fibers of paper. This sensitive paper was then placed in the sun under a leaf or other object and within minutes the energy of the light would reduce the silver chloride to tiny particles of silver, appearing red or purple. The image was a negative, of course, for where the object blocked the light, nothing happened, but where the light reached around or through the object, the paper darkened. At this stage, it could be examined by candlelight, or fixed to make it more resistant to the sun's rays.

Yet virtually none of what we know must have been produced seems to have survived.(1) One explanation for this loss might lie in human nature, for the succeeding generations that have proven to be dismissive of great-aunt Susan's amateur watercolors would probably have thought even less of her sun drawings. Perhaps more importantly, most of these would have remained sensitive to light and those most treasured and admired, paradoxically, probably got the most viewing and were consequently destroyed. The largest known body of surviving photogenic drawings was done by Henry Talbot himself. Yet this leaf, and its companions, do not fit into the corpus of known work by Talbot and his circle. That leads us to contemplate just how it came to be created - and why it has survived.

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