Celebrating the Inventor of Photography's Archive at Oxford

15 March 2023

Professorial Fellow Geoffrey Batchen is curating a new exhibition at the Bodleian’s Weston Library celebrating the library’s acquisition of the archive of the British inventor of photography, William Henry Fox Talbot.

Bright Sparks: Photography and the Talbot Archive puts items from the archive in conversation with the works of contemporary artists. It brings the archive to life in new ways, showcasing how Talbot’s work influenced and inspired other artists. In doing so, the exhibition aims to create a dialogue between past and present – between Talbot’s pioneering experiments and the practices and concerns of later photographers.

The exhibition is curated by Geoffrey Batchen, Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford and a specialist in the history of photography. He says:’In 2014, the Bodleian Library acquired the family archive of William Henry Fox Talbot, the English polymath who invented a paper-based form of photography. The archive included 100 photographs, along with hundreds of items from every stage of the life of Talbot and his extended family. In the years since, the Library has accepted the deposit of another 200 Talbot photographs. Drawing on this extensive archive, Bright Sparks shows how Talbot’s life and work prefigured a vast array of later developments in photographic practice, and celebrates innovative ways in which archives can be interpreted.’

The exhibition includes key works from the Bodleian Libraries’ collections alongside photography by figures such as Hiroshi Sugimoto, Cornelia Parker, Man Ray, Martin Parr, Carleton Watkins, Daniel Meadows, Helen Muspratt, Julia Margaret Cameron, Camille Corot, Kilian Brier, Anne Ferran, Alison Rossiter, Gerhard Richter and Garry Fabian Miller. It is on display in the Weston Library’s Treasury from 17 March until 18 June.