Ian Talbot: Retrospective – Photogenic Drawing :: The Natural Order







Chapter XX of the ongoing series Ian Talbot : Retrospective by British fine art photographer Ian Talbot.







Photogenic Drawing :: The Natural Order



© Ian Talbot


“No human hand has hitherto traced such lines as these drawings display; and what man may hereafter do, now that Dame Nature has become his drawing mistress, it is impossible to predict.” Michael Faraday, 1839


Faraday’s comment must have seemed completely understandable, made in the first flush of excitement at the news of the invention of photography. Yet it has proved to be both premature and mistaken. In the field of botany, for example, the botanical drawing still remains unsurpassed in rendering the scientific detail of plant life for purposes of taxonomy. The old ways have survived and photography has found other furrows to plough.

Strangely enough, though, in Fox Talbot’s original experiments, his camera less “sun prints”, this may have seemed a more reasonable assertion, resembling as they did conventional botanical drawings; minus the colour, of course. The intricate patterns and shapes of leaves, for example, left shadows of their designs in the fibres of writing paper coated with silver nitrate, and in the words of Talbot “made very pleasing pictures”. Nature was tamed by photography but the photograph was understood as an expression of natural laws, as “nature’s pencil”.

For me, however, photography is not “nature’s pencil” it’s MY pencil and in the absence of any drawing skills the only one I am able to use to any satisfactory level. You can safely assume, too, that had I any actual facility with a pencil, “technical drawing” skills would not be high on my wish list. My wife tells me that the plant in the image above is a Yucca plant but it is a matter of little importance to me. For me it is only a more or less pleasing arrangement of shapes, light and tones. A prosaic viewpoint? Well, maybe… but still there is romance in the image for me. The romance is in the medium not the subject matter, however.


    Ian Talbot

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