Displaced Origins and The Pencil of Nature
This chapter focuses on Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature, the first illustrated book with photographs, in which Talbot offered a range of applications to photography. I relate Talbot’s statements in the book on the evidentiary status of the photograph to the role of documents in literary and historical genres of writing. For Talbot the value of the photograph as a document does not simply consist, I argue, in its capacity to copy, to accurately depict everything the camera sees, but in its capacity to evoke the imagination. Consequently, the problem for Talbot is not to “authenticate” the past or prove “what has been,” but how to make the past alive and intimate: the re-enactment of the past not its authentication.
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