How charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durable and remain fixed upon the paper! And why should it not be possible? I asked myself.
Groups of figures take no longer to obtain than single figures would require … but at present we cannot succeed in this art without previous concert and arrangement … but when a group of Persons has been artistically arranged, and trained by little practice to maintain an absolute immobility for a few seconds of time, very delightful pictures are easily obtained.
I then thought of trying again a method which I had tried many years before. This method was to take a camera obscura and to throw the image of the objects on a piece of paper in its focus – fairy pictures, creations of a moment, and destined as rapidly to fade away. It was during these thoughts that the idea occurred to me – how charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durably, and remain fixed upon the paper.
The picture… is but a succession or variety of stronger lights thrown upon one part of the paper, and of deeper shadows on another. Now Light, where it exists, can exert an action.
I do not claim to have perfected an art but to have commenced one, the limits of which it is not possible at present exactly to ascertain.
Authors and Publishers will find the Photographic process in many cases far preferable to engraving for illustrating their works, especially when faithful representations of Nature are sought.
[The camera] may be said to make a picture of whatever it sees, the object glass is the eye of the instrument—the sensitive paper may be compared to the retina.
I remember it was said by many persons, at the time when photogenic drawing was first spoken of, that it was likely to prove injurious to art, as substituting mere mechanical labour in lieu of talent and experience. Now, so far from this being the case, I find that in this, as in most other things, there is ample room for the exercise of skill and judgement. It would hardly be believed how different an effect is produced by a longer or shorter exposure to the light, and, also, by mere variations in the fixing process, by means of which almost any tint, cold or warm, may be thrown over the picture, and the effect of bright or gloomy weather may be imitated at pleasure. All this falls within the artist’s province to combine and regulate...
The effect of the copy [negative] though of course unlike the original (substituting as it does lights for shadows and vice versa) yet is often singularly pleasing and would I think often suggest to artists useful ideas respecting light and shade.
One advantage of the discovery of the Photographic Art will be, that it will enable us to introduce into our pictures a multitude of minute details which add to the truth and reality of the representation, but which no artist would take the trouble to faithfully copy from nature.
It is a little bit of magic realized:—of natural magic. You make the powers of nature work for you, and no wonder your work is well and quickly done.
At the very commencement of my experiments upon this subject, when I saw how beautiful were the images which were thus produced by the action of light, I regretted the more that they were destined to have such a brief existence, and I resolved to attempt to find out, if possible, some method of preventing this, or retarding it as much as possible.