In January of 1839 William Henry Fox Talbot rushed to arrange a showing of experimental images captured on sheets of chemically treated paper placed in the back of a small wooden box. Talbot feared that his rival, L. J. M. Daguerre, would make his similar discoveries public before Talbot had the chance to announce his own. Daguerre's and Talbot's inventions - the daguerreotype and the paper photograph - ushered in a new way of imaging reality that has transformed modern history and culture. A Gift of Light: Photographs from the Janos Scholz Collection takes us back to the first decades following the invention of paper photography. The book's sampling of works by more than sixty of the leading European photographers of the era - including Talbot, Julia Margaret Cameron, Alphonse Louis Poitevin, Gustave Le Gray, and Eugene Atget - show a wide variety of photographic techniques and an extraordinary breadth of subject matter. We see Tennyson, Delacroix, and Gauguin; Victorian ladies and Indian maharajas; the pines of Rome and rocks in Lebanon; the catacombs of Paris and the battlements of the Crimea; medieval cathedrals and Egyptian pyramids. In addition to the plates, A Gift of Light contains a foreword by Charles R. Loving, three essays, notes on the photographs, and a bibliography. Stephen Roger Moriarty sets the scene with an essay about Janos Scholz, the art collector and cellist who donated his extraordinary collection of more than 5,000 nineteenth-century European photographs to the University of Notre Dame's Snite Museum of Art. Moriarty's second essay describes the techniques and processes used in the early development of photography. Morna O'Neill examines the importance of photography in Victorian England. Containing many photographs unavailable in any other collection and seen here for the first time, A Gift of Light will be an important source of information for historians of photography, the Victorian era, and French romanticism. The book will also delight general readers.
Stephen Roger Moriarty is the Fritz and Milly Kaeser Curator of Photography and associate professional specialist at the Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame. He is the editor of Fritz Kaeser: A Life in Photography, also published by the University of Notre Dame Press. Morna O'Neill is a post-doctoral fellow in the history of art at Yale University. Charles R. Loving is the director of the Snite Museum of Art and curator of Modern Sculpture at the University of Notre Dame.