The Bodleian Libraries present the exhibit A New Power: Photography in Britain 1800-1850 on 1 February 2023, at the Weston Library, home of the Bodleian’s unique collections.
A New Power will collect an unmatched array of items and photographic products, supplying a fascinating insight into the role of photography in the British Empire. Consisting of over 160 items, the exhibition will check out the early history of the medium, starting with its innovation and the earliest dissemination of photographic images in Britain, and ending with the Great Exhibit of 1851. The exhibition exposes how photography intersected with all aspects of a nascent modernity and played a crucial function in shaping British society.
The exhibit is uncommon in tracing the development of photography back to the late eighteenth century, acknowledging the contributions of ladies to the experiments that resulted in the announcement of the medium and its subsequent commercialisation. A New Power includes a variety of the ﬁrst photographic images to be published, in addition to an incredible range of early daguerreotypes, photogenic drawings and salt prints from calotype negatives. Examples of work by William Henry Fox Talbot, Anna Atkins, John Hershel, Richard Beard, Antoine Claudet, Edward Kilburn and John Mayall are included, along with plaster busts by Francis Chantrey, a painting by John Constable, and a part of Charles Babbage’s ﬁrst computing engine. Particular focus is placed on the dissemination of photographic images in the popular press, documenting both celebs and varied members of the working class. A number of products reveal the worldwide spread of photography, revealing the way photographic images supplied the British Empire with a sense of coherence and power.
A brand-new form of reporting
One of the many revolutions that accompanied the development of photography involved the transformation of photojournalism. It was now possible to trace over a daguerreotype and copy the image as wood inscriptions to produce an accurate visual document that might then be integrated into illustrated newspapers. This procedure would destroy the initial daguerreotype, however would allow practically limitless reproduction of its image. The procedure was expensive, but the caption ‘From a daguerreotype’ printed beside an image ended up being a mark of credibility in the newspaper industry. Specifically essential in this regard was the starting of the Illustrated London News in 1842, the world’s ﬁrst showed weekly news publication.
The history of celebrity
Photography also had a central function in the advancement of the principle of celeb. The exhibition includes a number of early examples of society’s fascination with the images of famous people. Amongst the most intriguing items on display is a series of engravings of actors based on daguerreotypes. The series consists of an image of Ira Aldridge, an African-American star who performed in plays by Shakespeare and would give anti-slavery speeches after his performances. The exhibition likewise consists of a daguerreotype portrait of Queen Victoria and her kids, where the Queen has wiped off her own face, frustrated that she had actually been recorded with her eyes closed.
A New Power is part of the Library’s dedication to offer more area to photography research and preservation, led by Bodley’s Curator, Richard Ovenden, and the Curator of Photography, Dr Phillip Roberts. Just recently, the Bodleian have been broadening their substantial photographic archive through the acquisition of collections such as the Bern Schwartz archive, the archives of William Henry Fox Talbot, the archives of Helen Muspratt and Daniel Meadows, and material from the Hyman collection of 20th-century British photography.
The exhibit has actually been curated by Geoffrey Batchen, Professor of History of Art at the University of Oxford and a professional in the history of photography. He says of the exhibition: ‘By showing how photography intersected with all aspects of a nascent modernity, A New Power reveals photography’s important role in making Britain the society it is today. However it also brakes with the usual way the history of photography is conceived by concentrating on the advent and expansion of the photographic image, rather than simply of the picture.’
To accompany the exhibition, Bodleian Library Publishing will be releasing a brand-new book authored by Geoffrey Batchen on 16 March 2023. Creating Photography: William Henry Fox Talbot in the Bodleian Library will provide an engaging window into the archives and the innovative activities of Talbot.
The Bodleian Libraries will likewise host a series of occasions and lectures devoted to photography and to their archival materials. On Friday 17 March, Geoffrey Batchen will hold the lecture Modern Times: Photography in Britain 1800– 1850, complimentary for all to gain access to, while on Saturday 18 March the Bodleian will host A New Power: The symposium, throughout which experts will check out and go over numerous elements of photography’s history between 1800 and 1850.
New Power: Photography in Britain 1800-1850
1 February– 7 May 2023
The Weston Library
Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3BG, United Kingdom