In the text accompanying this image, the second plate in William Henry Fox Talbot's The Pencil of Nature, Talbot commented upon the egalitarian nature of photography: "the instrument chronicles whatever it sees, and certainly would delineate a chimney-pot or a chimney-sweeper with the same impartiality as it would the Apollo of Belvedere." Each print in the book, the first commercially published book to be illustrated with photographs, was an original photograph, tipped in, or glued, to its page.
On a spring afternoon in Paris, Talbot photographed the street from his hotel, sufficiently high up to provide a sweeping view of the city's spiky rooftops. The streets have just been wetted down to reduce the dust stirred up from the unpaved road. Although the calotype shortened exposure times, the ghost images of carriages that moved on the boulevard during the exposure betray the still-lengthy exposure.