Photogenic Drawing Negatives and Photogenic Drawing Prints


William Henry Fox Talbot embarked on other experiments that would enable him to capture people, landscapes, and architectural views. These images required an extensive exposure time in a camera in order to produce a photogenic negative. The photogenic negatives could then be used to create positive photogenic drawing prints.

To make a positive print, Talbot washed a sheet of writing paper with sodium chloride, dried it, and sensitized one side with silver nitrate. He placed the sensitized side in direct contact with the negative underneath a glass in a printing frame, and exposed the frame, glass side up, to sunlight until the desired density of the print was achieved.

All photogenic drawings, whether negatives or positives, are characterized by the fact that they were not permanently fixed, but rather only stabilized to slow any further action of light. As such, they remain extremely sensitive to light and susceptible to darkening and fading. Stabilizing solutions used at the time to render the unexposed highlight areas less sensitive to light included a solution of potassium iodide, which created yellow-brown highlights; sodium (or ammonium) chloride (common table salt), which created purple highlights; and potassium bromide, which created blue highlights.



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“Botanical Specimen of a Fern,” William Henry Fox Talbot, photogenic drawing stabilized with chloride, 1839, Houghton Library, Harvard University