Page last updated at 15:29 GMT, Tuesday, 4 August 2009 16:29 UK

Library reveals rare photographs

An oak tree in winter, c.1842-43. Image: William Fox Talbot.
William Fox Talbot, along with Louis Daguerre, was a pioneer of photography

Rarely seen images from the early days of photography will be revealed in the British Library's first ever major photographic exhibition.

About 250 original images, including work by 19th century pioneers William Henry Fox Talbot and Julia Margaret Cameron, will go on display in London.

Curator John Falconer said it would examine the history of photography.

He said its invention "opened up a whole new world of visual communication and personal expression".

The show, titled Points of View, will examine the development and influence of photography, from its invention in 1839 up to the growth of the popular amateur market in the early 20th century.

Salted paper

The British Library's collection of 300,000 images includes pictures taken in the fields of science, anthropology and archaeology.

Highlights include Fox Talbot's An Oak Tree in Winter, which demonstrates his calotype and salted paper technique, and vivid blue cyanotype images of algae specimens produced by Anna Atkins.

Dictyola dichotoma. Image: Anna Atkins
Anna Atkins created cameraless images of algae specimens

The collection concentrates more on the social uses of photography than the artistic.

Mr Falconer added: "The collection is incidental in the sense that the British Museum, which is where these objects were before they came to the British Library, never collected photography as a medium in itself.

"It is material from across a range of departments; our manuscripts, where photographs might be part of private papers or illustrated books; and our map library, which collected topographical photographs quite actively in the 19th century.

"They didn't collect them because they were photographs; they collected them because they were topographical documents."

He added: "While there are many images here that are works of art, in terms of our collection it concentrates more on the reasons they were taken, which varied hugely."

Points of View: Capturing the 19th Century in Photographs, the exhibition will run from 30 October until 7 March 2010.



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