Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery: Salt and Silver, Early Photography, 1840–1860

William Henry Fox Talbot, Nelson's Column Under Construction, Trafalgar Square, April 1844, salted paper print from paper negative.

William Henry Fox Talbot, Nelson’s Column Under Construction, Trafalgar Square, April 1844, salted paper print from paper negative, courtesy of the Wilson Centre for Photography

Salted paper prints, with their soft images in charcoal, sepia, and ochre, represent one of the earliest photographic technologies and offer rare glimpses into seldom seen worlds. Beginning Saturday, November 10, a selection of these rare prints will be on view in Salt and Silver, Early Photography, 1840–1860 at Scripps’ Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery of Art. The exhibition, which will run through December 16, was organized in collaboration with the Wilson Centre for Photography, London.

Salt and Silver presents more than 60 salted paper prints by renowned photographic pioneers such as William Henry Fox Talbot and the studio of Mathew Brady. Fragile and fewer in number than the metal daguerreotypes and tintypes predominant during this era, salted paper prints offer a glimpse into the early world of photography as well as previously unseen landscapes.

“This exhibition presents photography when it was a completely new imaging technology,” said Hope Kingsley, curator of education and collections at the Wilson Centre for Photography and lead curator of this exhibition. “The pictures show an experimental richness that gives us access to photography’s beginnings as a compelling artistic and documentary medium.”

With their hand-coated edges and organic colors, these prints have a magical aura. This is the result of technological advances made during the early 19th century, in which a faint, latent negative image was chemically developed to the full density and fixed, and then used to print many positive prints.

“With this new portable technology, photographers were able to take photographs around the world for the first time,” said Mary MacNaughton, Scripps’ Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Director of the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery and professor of art history. “Indeed, this exhibition presents rare glimpses of life in 19th-century Europe, Middle East, and the Americas.” Glimpses of lives long-forgotten, yet still accessible through these images.

During the run of the exhibition, the Williamson Gallery is open from 12 until 5:00 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, and admission is free. For more information, click here.