Main content

The Invention of Photography

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the development and impact of photography in the 1830s, with heliographs, sun pictures, photogenic drawing, Daguerre and Fox Talbot.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the development of photography in the 1830s, when techniques for 'drawing with light' evolved to the stage where, in 1839, both Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot made claims for its invention. These followed the development of the camera obscura, and experiments by such as Thomas Wedgwood and Nicéphore Niépce, and led to rapid changes in the 1840s as more people captured images with the daguerreotype and calotype. These new techniques changed the aesthetics of the age and, before long, inspired claims that painting was now dead.


Simon Schaffer
Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge

Elizabeth Edwards
Emeritus Professor of Photographic History at De Montfort University


Alison Morrison-Low,
Research Associate at National Museums Scotland

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

49 minutes

Last on

Thu 7 Jul 2016 21:30


Simon Schaffer at the University of Cambridge

Elizabeth Edwards at De Montfort University

Alison Morrison-Low at National Museums Scotland

William Henry Fox Talbot – Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

History of Photography in 40 Photographs – National Media Museum

Revelations: Experiments in Photography – National Media Museum

The Atlas of Analytical Signatures of Photographic Processes - The Getty Conservation Institute

19th century photography – Victoria and Albert Museum

George Eastman Museum

History of photography - Wikipedia



Quentin Bajac, The Invention of Photography: The First Fifty Years (Thames and Hudson, 2002)

Gordon Baldwin and Martin Jürgens, Looking at Photographs: A Guide to Technical Terms (J. Paul Getty Museum, 2009)

Geoffrey Batchen, Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography (MIT Press, 1997)

M. Brusius et al. (eds), William Henry Fox Talbot: Beyond Photography (Yale University Press, 2013)

Janet E. Buerger, French Daguerreotypes (University of Chicago Press, 1989)

Frances Dimond and Roger Taylor, Crown & Camera: The Royal Family and Photography 1842-1910 (Penguin, 1987)

Steve Edwards, Photography: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2006)

Steve Edwards, The Making of English Photography: Allegories (Pennsylvania State University, 2006)

Helmut Gernsheim, The Rise of Photography: 1850-1880, The Age of Collodion (Thames and Hudson, 1988)

B. E. C. Howarth-Loomes, Victorian Photography: A Collector’s Guide (Ward Lock Limited, 1974)

Robin Lenman (ed.), Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford University Press, 2005)

Weston Naef (ed.), Photography: Discovery and Invention (Getty Trust Publications, 1991)

Denis Pellerin and Brian May, The Poor Man’s Picture Gallery: Stereoscopy Versus Paintings in the Victorian Era (The London Stereoscopic Company, 2014)

Larry Schaaf, Out of the Shadows: Herschel, Talbot and the Invention of Photography (Yale University Press, 1992)

Grace Seiberling with Carolyn Blore, Amateur Photography and the mid-Victorian Imagination (Chicago University Press, 1986)

Tanya Sheehan and Andrés Zervigón (eds.), Photography and its Origins (Routledge, 2014)

Roddy Simpson, The Photography of Victorian Scotland (Edinburgh University Press, 2012)

Graham Smith, Disciples of Light: Photographs in the Brewster Album (The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1990)

Sara Stevenson, The Personal Art of D.O. Hill (The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale University Press, 2002)

Sara Stevenson and Alison Morrison-Low, Scottish Photography: The First Thirty Years (National Museums of Scotland, 2015)

Roger Taylor, George Washington Wilson, Artist and Photographer, 1823-93 (Aberdeen University Press, 1981)

Roger Taylor & Larry Schaaf, Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007)

Paul Wing, Stereoscopes: The First One Hundred Years (Transition Publishing, 1996)



Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Producer Simon Tillotson
Interviewed Guest Elizabeth Edwards
Interviewed Guest Alison Morrison-Low
Interviewed Guest Simon Schaffer


  • Thu 7 Jul 2016 09:00
  • Thu 7 Jul 2016 21:30

Featured in...

In Our Time podcasts

In Our Time podcasts

Every episode of In Our Time is available to download.

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

If you’re new to In Our Time, this is a good place to start.

Arts and Ideas podcast

Arts and Ideas podcast

Download the best of Radio 3's Free Thinking programme.