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"Singular Images, Failed Copies"William Henry Fox Talbot and the Early Photograph$
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Vered Maimon

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780816694716

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816694716.001.0001

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Displaced Origins and The Pencil of Nature

(p.175) 4 History
"Singular Images, Failed Copies"

Vered Maimon

University of Minnesota Press

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.

Keywords:   William Henry Fox Talbot, The Pencil of Nature, Photography, Document, Imagination, Authentication, Copy, Re-enactment

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