This exhibtion is drawn from more than 300,000 ‘hidden’ images held at the British Library and shows how the art developed from its invention in 1839 by Louis Dageurre to its commercial usage at the end of the 19th century.
The collection includes prints, albums, negatives , X-rays as well as the instruments of the era taken from the National Media Museum including Henry Fox Talbot’s pioneering first camera. The 200 images on show are exhibited in sections taking the viewer through the history and diversity of photography including foreign adventures, photography as art, the portrait, scientific photography, Victorian inventions, social documentary and, finally, fin de siècle. Napoleon Sarony’s portrait of Oscar Wilde taken in New York in 1882 is typical of the type of celebrity portrait of the era. Wilde sits in a louche velvet suit on a chair draped with exotic rugs, his head propped on one hand, his other hand holding a book. The exhibition ends with the invention of the Kodak camera, which was to make photography available to and affordable by the masses.