Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Homage to Talbot: The Magic of Light

I've taken a walk through a local forest many times, along the path one encounters a country estate in Tudor style architecture, surrounded by formal English gardens and numerous fountains.  Walking the grounds, passing from one garden to another one approaches a garden shed where the door is always slightly ajar.  I've passed this door for years and each time I peek in inhaling the personality and ambiance of the small enclosed room brimming with garden supplies with a south facing window overlooking one of the formal gardens.  There's something about this garden room that is inherently attractive in a purely organic manner, whereupon leaving I'm always glad I took a moment to just enjoy the space ever so briefly.

Homage to Talbot #1 (sepia)
© 2013, Joanne Scherf

Previously content to just relish the moment, I actually took a photograph of this room on my most recent visit.  It's not that the room had changed; it was still overflowing with rather mundane gardening clutter of stakes, barrels, and ladder leaning against a rather worn stone wall.  But this time in the hours of an early spring afternoon the light was streaming through the small overhead window throwing a soft, muted light into the room.  I finally figured out why the room always appeared somewhat familiar, and the glow of the room always drew me in.  In short, it has to do with Henry Fox Talbot, the author of Pencil of Nature, and father of photography, more specifically the negative-positive development process.  As an avid student of photographic history I kept associating this room with one Talbot captured in 1844; the "Rembrandtish" image of the dark interior of a barn, with a broom leaning against the door jamb called The Open Door; thus for me making the associated familiarity.

Homage to Talbot #2 (color)
© 2013, Joanne Scherf

I've always been fascinated with Henry Fox Talbot, not just for his major accomplishment regarding the discovery of the process of paper photography.  I also associate him with the essence of photography, capturing and harnessing the magical power of light.  So focusing on the light streaming through the window of the garden shed that late morning jolted my memory and created the "a ha" moment for me, even though on a subconscious level I knew it all along.  Henry Fox Talbot stated it best when writing about The Open Door image:

"We have sufficient authority in the Dutch school of art for taking as subjects of representation scenes of daily and familiar occurrence.  A painter's eye will often be arrested where ordinary people see nothing remarkable.  A casual gleam of sunshine, or a shadow thrown across his path, a time-weathered oak, or a moss-covered stone may awaken a train of thoughts and feelings, and the picturesque imaginings.

So, the next time you pass scenes where the light is creating a magical luminance playfully scattering its spell, take a moment to enjoy the picturesque imaginings.

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