NOTES ON THE ART OF FAILURE

Dan Estabrook

ONE

As the story goes, William Henry Fox Talbot sought to invent Photography because he couldn’t draw.1 Having failed at making a decent landscape using the camera lucida, he wished to get Nature to “paint itself.”2 Through years of trial and error, Talbot managed to produce some of the first lasting photographic images only to have his singular breakthrough trumped by the superior work of a better-funded Frenchman. As more and more proto-Photographers began to stake their own claims, Talbot raced to show his earlier discoveries, but was thwarted by minor missteps and a summer of bad English weather.3 He barely eked out some flawed and faded photographs in time. Nevertheless, this was the birth of the ...

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