Paper Negative

William Henry Fox Talbot patented his calotype process in 1841. Because of the patent restrictions in England on his invention, the calotype process only achieved partial success there. In Scotland, where no patent restrictions existed, professional photographers such as David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson experimented with and refined aspects of Talbot’s method including various chemical and optical techniques.

With no patent restrictions in France as well, French photographers also had freedom to experiment with the method. Hippolyte Bayard, Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard, Gustave Le Gray, Édouard Baldus, Henri Le Secq, Frédéric Flachéron, and other French photographers modified Talbot’s calotype process considerably.

Gustave Le Gray, for example, waxed the paper before the sensitizing step, while Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard prepared or sized paper with a mix of milk serum and albumen until it was transparent. The term “paper negative” here refers to paper negatives that were significantly altered by photographers and thus not technically the same as Talbot’s calotype process.