THE PENCIL OF NATURE
series of ten nature prints "after Talbot", all 60 × 43.5 cm
My series of nature prints borrows the title of the publication with which William Henry Fox Talbot presented his photographic process, published from 1844 to 1846: The Pencil of Nature. Starting point for the nature prints are Talbot’s botanical photograms: In his experiments for capturing light on paper Talbot used glass plates to press plants onto sensitized paper and exposed them to sunlight to subsequently fix them as negative silhouettes.
I associate this “birth of photography from the spirit of botany” with nature printing, a technique perfected in Vienna contemporaneously to Talbot’s experiments in the mid-nineteenth century. Like the photogram, nature printing is also based on an actual contact with nature: Starting out from an imprint in lead of the object to be printed, a copper intaglio plate is made using two galvanoplastic impressions. The printing plate produces true to original images not only of but also through nature. This means that the nature prints not only resemble Talbot’s botanical photograms visually, but also with regard to production. In both cases it is the physical contact that produces the image. The plants chosen for THE PENCIL OF NATURE push this analogy even further: they are specimens of the species, that can be identified on Talbot’s botanical photograms, which are almost two hundred years old.
By connecting nature printing with early photography THE PENCIL OF NATURE returns to the haptic origins of photography in the age of the omnipresent digital image.