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Botanical Specimen (Erica mutabolis)
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This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.

William Henry Fox Talbot
British, England, probably March 1839
Salt-fixed photogenic drawing negative
5 1/2 x 2 11/16 in.
85.XM.150.13

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Textiles and plants were the subjects that William Henry Fox Talbot favored for his early photogenic drawing experiments. Both were good subjects because of their ability to transmit light and to reveal shapes and patterns according to their density. This delicate, balanced botanical specimen is one of Talbot's early experiments with trying to fix, or make permanent, the photogenic drawings that he had begun to produce in 1834. The print was fixed with ordinary table salt, which accounts for its purplish tone.

Like most of Talbot's images made before the spring of 1839, this is a negative image. Talbot did not perfect his negative/positive calotype process until 1840, which is perhaps one of the reasons that the daguerreotype process in France was more immediately popular. Eventually, however, Talbot's invention became more influential because it allowed multiple prints to be made from a single negative.