Teachers Lesson Plans

Drawing With Light

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William Henry Fox Talbot, Doorway at Lacock Abbey: The Ladder, April 1844 and Robin Collyer, Yonge Street, Willowdale, 1995

How does each photographer approach photography?

William Henry Fox Talbot and Robin Collyer are both products of their periods in the history of photography. When Talbot took his photograph in 1845, photography was a brand new art form. He celebrated the ability of the medium to capture nature in all its detail, adding to “the truth and reality of the representation.” (Talbot, The Pencil of Nature, 1844.) Talbot’s photograph is filled with detail, from the textures of the twisting vines and the rough stone wall, to the dress of the men. Subtle shifts in light and shade are also captured. This is reality, in all its glorious imperfection.

A hundred and fifty years later, Robin Collyer works in the digital age of photography. He explains, “Because of new technologies, it is possible to change a photographic image at a microscopic level ... it is not possible to ‘trust’ a photographic image anymore.” (Artist statement, 1997) Collyer’s photograph reveals his desire to use the new technologies, but also his wariness of them. He scanned the image and then digitally removed the text from signs and balanced the colours. Collyer likens these subtle alterations to retouching. Unlike Talbot who captured reality with enthusiasm, Collyer alters it to make a critical commentary on photographic practice.