Edited by Stephen Roger Moriarty with Morna O’Neill
In January of 1839 William Henry Fox Talbot rushed to arrange a showing of experimental images captured on sheets of chemically treated paper placed in the back of a small wooden box. Talbot feared that his rival, L. J. M. Daguerre, would make his similar discoveries public before Talbot had the chance to announce his own. Daguerre’s and Talbot’s inventions—the daguerreotype and paper photograph—ushered in a new way of imaging reality that has transformed modern history and culture.
A Gift of Light: Photographs from the Janos Scholz Collection takes us back to the first decades following the invention of paper photography. The book’s sampling of works by more than sixty of the leading European photographers of the era—including Talbot, Julia Margaret Cameron, Alphonse Louis Poitevin, Gustave Le Gray, and Eugène Atget—show a wide variety of photographic techniques and an extraordinary breadth of subject matter. We see Tennyson, Delacroix, and Gauguin; Victorian ladies and Indian maharajas; the pines of Rome and rocks in Lebanon; the catacombs of Paris and the battlements of the Crimea; medieval cathedrals and Egyptian pyramids.
In addition to the plates, A Gift of Light contains a foreword by Charles R. Loving, three essays, notes on the photographs, and a bibliography. Stephen Roger Moriarty sets the scene with an essay about Janos Scholz, the art collector and cellist who donated his extraordinary collection of more than 5,000 nineteenth-century European photographs to the University of Notre Dame’s Snite Museum of Art. Moriarty’s second essay describes the techniques and processes used in the early development of photography. Morna O’Neill examines the importance of photography in Victorian England.
Containing many photographs unavailable in any other collection and seen here for the first time, A Gift of Light will be an important source of information for historians of photography, the Victorian era, and French romanticism. The book will also delight general readers.
“ A Gift of Light contains images by [Gustave] Le Gray, along with more than 100 images by about 60 other leading European photographers of the mid-19th century, including William Henry Fox Talbot, Eugène Atget, Alphonse Louise Poitevin, and Julia Margaret Cameron. The works are selected from the more than 5000 European photographs that art collector and cellist Janos Scholz donated to the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame. Some images are seen here for the first time. The range of subjects includes landscapes, cathedrals, pyramids, catacombs, portraits of Indian maharajas and the painters Delacroix and Gauguin, and battle locations of the Crimean War, and the areas photographed include France, England, Java, Japan, Turkey, and Indochina. An added value is the discussion of the photographic processes used during that period, which editor Moriarty (curator of photography, Snite Museum) presents in language accessible to the general reader. Excellent reproduction quality captures the special tonal characteristics of these early photographs.… A Gift of Light belongs in history of photography collections in academic and larger public libraries.” — Library Journal
“A study of the heady first days of photography … offering readers a visual record of the earliest experiments in photography.” — Forecast
“This exhibition catalog/book is a good introduction to 19th century paper photography, with a fine presentation of often rare and heretofore unseen, well-produced, full page plates of 112 prints by some 60 photographers … the summary historical essays here are engaging, informative, and well written.” — Choice
“The present book… provides a dazzling view of what is in fact the tip of an iceberg. In addition to providing a permanent record of the exhibition, the book offers a tantalising glimpse of the extraordinary photographic holdings that are now available for study at Notre Dame.”— History of Photography