Part Four: Photography ~ Research ‘The Pencil of Nature’

After reading and considering the introductory chapters of, The Pencil of Nature (1844-46), by William Henry Fox Talbot I considered the following questions:

  1. Do you see photography as mechanical or creative?
  2. Can any process be both?

Firstly I wanted to remind myself/ascertain what the term mechanical meant, according to an online dictionary Mechanical has two definitions:

  1. 1.
    operated by a machine or machinery.
    “a mechanical device”
  2. 2.
    (of an action) done without thought or spontaneity; automatic.
    “she stopped the mechanical brushing of her hair”

I think following Talbot’s introduction you could conclude that photography was mechanical, simply because he focused heavily on the scientific research, experiments and processes involved in developing photography. However I think even this process shows creative thought, he had to think outside of convention, I’d say that’s try to solve a problem (in this case how to fix an image onto paper) creatively.

Perhaps the early methods in photography were mechanical because they were very much figuring out process and forms. But I think today photography can take into consideration several factors which might have been traditionally seen as part of a creative process. For instance considering how you want to capture the photograph, the mood you want to create, what you’re framing or focusing on, the light etc all area considerations of composition which would be familiar to most artists.

If Talbot’s words are anything to go by Photography is a blend of the mechanical and the creative, even though he doesn’t explicitly reach those conclusions for himself.

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