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Capturing the Light: The Birth of Photography, a True Story of Genius and Rivalry Hardcover – November 26, 2013

4.8 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

January 7, 2014, will be the 175th anniversary of French illusionist Louis Daguerre’s 1839 unveiling of the daguerreotype, considered by some historians to be the first true photograph. Others argue that British polymath Henry Fox Talbot’s 1835 calotype should be listed as the first preservation of a camera image. Had the shy and cautious Talbot revealed his invention to the public immediately, he might not now be a forgotten man, according to Watson and Rappaport. Ironically, after a couple of contentious decades during which early photographers fought over patents and the merits of metal, glass, and paper media for saving images, Talbot’s use of negatives became the standard process for both landscape and portrait photography, and Daguerre remained photography’s legendary figure. A small collection of historic photographs is included in this well-timed and welcome history of the invention and spread of photography in the nineteenth century. --Rick Roche

Review

“A dual biography of Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot, two men who separately announced inventions of photographic processes in France and England in 1839. The book is very readable, even exciting--good on the science and particularly good on the characters and social backgrounds of the two men. . . . Silver nitrate has been superseded by pixels for image making, but it was once the cutting edge, with all the excitement that goes with the miraculous.” ―Wall Street Journal

“A well-timed and welcome history of the invention and spread of photography in the nineteenth century.” ―Booklist

“An energetically written and deftly paced history of photography's origins, including the intricate rivalries surrounding Talbot and Daguerre's laborious attempts to permanently capture images seen through the camera obscura . . . gripping popular history.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Rappaport offers an absorbing, perceptive, and detailed picture of a constitutional monarchy in crisis.” ―Publishers Weekly on A Magnificent Obsession

“As shocking and immediate as a thriller. . . . [A] gripping read.” ―People magazine, 3 ½ stars on The Last Days of the Romanovs

“Quite simply, stunning. . . . Chilling and poignant, this is how history books should be written.” ―Alison Weir, author of Henry VIII: The King and His Court on The Last Days of the Romanovs

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (November 26, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250009707
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250009708
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #701,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John D. Cofield TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The nineteenth century was the heyday of the Industrial Revolution and a time of rapid change, with new inventions seemingly being announced every day. One of the most far reaching inventions was the development of photography. Until now photography's beginnings were obscure and difficult to determine, but Roger Watson and Helen Rappaport's excellent new account tells the story clearly.

People had dreamed of being able to obtain clear, accurate photographic images for years, but the process seemed hopelessly complicated and doomed to failure, despite numerous attempts. Then in the early nineteenth century two very different men, without knowing anything about the other's existence, began to make progress. In France Louis Daguerre, from an humble background and with limited education, began to experiment as part of his employment as an illustrator and creator of large displays called panoramas. In England Henry Fox Talbot, scion of a noble family, began to investigate the possibilities of creating permanent images at about the same time. Watson and Rappaport do a fine job of creating a dual biography of the two men, describing the laborious experiments, repeated time and again with different, sometimes hazardous, materials over many years before each began to produce shadowy images. Inventors are often perceived as hidden away from the world with few human contacts, but both Daguerre and Talbot had many friends and associates and very supportive families. Indeed, Talbot likely would not have succeeded without the encouragement of his strong minded mother.

While Daguerre's process became highly popular and widely used, Talbot's process, which had some advantages over his French rivals, was never as well known.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book that takes you through the rather convoluted partnership of Niepce and Daguerre in their quest to create the world's first practical photographic method- the Daguerreoptype. Henry Talbot is also given his due as inventing the Calotype paper negative process which is shown to lead to Frederick Scott Archer's wet plate negative process.
The book is written to an eye toward the social and political history of the day and takes what would be a dry subject for most- especially if merely presenting the technical steps taken in these mens' quest into a portrait of the men, their families and their unique personalities and genius.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this book in about three days and then read it again. It is written beautifully and the most informative, thorough text on the evolution of photography I've ever read--and I am college prof who studies photographic images in literature.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not just about photography but also good history of the Mid 19th century! I would always tell people to buy this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
STILL READING BUT GREAT SO FAR
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book for anyone who is a photographer or likes photography, as a lecturer as well as one that gives photo classes is is a must read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was not expecting this book to be so interesting. Really enjoyed reading it.
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