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William Henry Fox Talbot, the English inventor of photography, created around 15,000 photographs in the nineteenth century, most of them attempts to produce compelling scientific documents or pictorial records of the world around him. However, among those that have survived are also prints in which an image has been obscured, obliterated or simply failed to register. Borrowing its intriguing title from a poem written by Talbot, this book features twenty-four of these prints, his most experimental photographs. Originally intended as test prints or creative exercises, all that remains on these shaped pieces of photographic paper are chemical stains or imprinted patterns or shapes. Offered to the reader as enigmatic physical artefacts, these failed or ruined photographs are here reanimated as objects of beauty, mystery and promise, as artworks that speak of photography's most fundamental attributes and potentials.
An accompanying essay illustrated with comparative images places these photographs in a broad historical context leading up to the present, revealing what relevance Talbot's experiments have to contemporary concepts of the art of photography.