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Buckler Fern

Calotype

— Another loser in the race to democratize photography

The calotype is one of a handful of early photographic methods that were invented around the same time. Calotypes were sometimes called ‘talbotypes’ after their inventor, William Henry Fox Talbot, who developed the process in 1841 by coating paper with silver iodide—though Talbot may have preferred the more poetic term, from the Greek καλός (kalos), “beautiful", and τύπος (tupos), “impression.” Calotypes take a long time to create, usually requiring an exposure of over an hour, which is probably why most calotype images are almost like still lives, more likely to feature plants or objects than faces. After a bloom of popularity, calotypes were unable to beat out their competition, the daguerreotype, most likely because Talbot copyrighted his invention, and Louis Daguerre did not, allowing his technology to spread more quickly.

Reed Enger, "Calotype, Another loser in the race to democratize photography," in Obelisk Art History, Published February 25, 2015; last modified May 28, 2020, http://arthistoryproject.com/mediums/calotype/.

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William Henry Fox Talbot, 1839

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