A group of people recline in the grass outdoors in front of a stone wall.

William Henry Fox Talbot, Rev. Calvert Richard Jones, The Fruit Sellers (detail), before December 13, 1845, salted paper print from a calotype negative, Gift of the William Talbott Hillman Foundation

Capturing a Shadow: William Henry Fox Talbot and the Promise of Photography

CMOA Theater

Free, seating is limited

"I have captured a shadow!" —William Henry Fox Talbot

ASL and accessible seating will be available at this lecture. Please call 412.622.3222 with questions or concerns.


Today, the ability to replicate images is taken for granted. We take pictures with cameras and phones and instantly broadcast them to the world every day. But in the 19th century, the ability to reproduce a photograph more than once, let alone multiple times, was revolutionary and unimaginable until the important discoveries of William Henry Fox Talbot. This scientist, mathematician, politician, artist, and innovator impacted the burgeoning field of photography by inventing processes for developing, fixing, and printing photographic images. Preeminent Talbot scholar, author, and director of the William Henry Fox Talbot Catalogue Raisonné, Larry J. Schaaf, will dig deep into the Talbot archives in this penetrating look into the life and work of this brilliant visionary.

Schaaf taught photojournalism and the history of photography at The University of Texas at Austin from the late 1960s - his work with the Gernsheim Collection and in Sir John Herschel’s archive drew him into research and he lapsed as a photographer. Based in Baltimore since 1982, Schaaf has alternated between being an independent researcher and consultant and a serial monogamist with numerous institutions. In the late 1980s, he founded the online Correspondence of William Henry Fox Talbot at the University of Glasgow, now based at De Montfort University, where he remains as editor. In 2014 he was appointed professor to the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford and is director of the online William Henry Fox Talbot Catalogue Raisonné, currently in publication.

Book Signing

CMOA’s exhibition, William Henry Fox Talbot and the Promise of Photography, is accompanied by a beautiful, small-format book that serves as a primer on the work of William Henry Fox Talbot and his circle, featuring an introductory essay by curator Dan Leers and thematic groupings elucidated by Schaaf. With its luminous reproductions of Talbot’s fragile works, this publication demonstrates that early photography required a form of magic-making and innovation that continues to inspire people today.

Leers and Schaaf will be available following the talk to sign copies of the catalog, which will be available for purchase at the CMOA Store.

Registration Information

Registration is not required for this event. Seating is limited and first-come, first-served.