Some Account of Lacock Abbey | Lisa McCarty

Photographs by Lisa McCarty

October 18 – December 16, 2011

Lisa McCarty exhibits photographs taken at Lacock Abbey, the home of William Henry Fox Talbot. Both site and subject of the first photographic negative, the Abbey is hallowed ground in the history of photography and became a point of pilgrimage for McCarty.

Artist Statement:
Once a medieval convent, Lacock Abbey is best known as the home of William Henry Fox Talbot. Tucked away in rural Wiltshire, England, the Abbey and surrounding woodland grounds became both site and subject of Talbot’s wondrous photographic experiments. It was in fact within the Abbey walls, in front of the now famous oriel window in the South Gallery, that Talbot created the first surviving photographic negative.

This past spring I traveled to Lacock Abbey and spent one sunny afternoon there with my camera. My only aim was to explore the environment that Talbot called home and perhaps capture a glimpse of what he was able to see there 175 years earlier.

As a gentleman scientist, natural philosopher, and admirer of romantic poetry, Talbot’s approach to image making was defined by a disciplined exploration of and surrender to the agency of light. He was dedicated to perfecting what he called “photogenic drawing“ but also delighted in the unexpected results he encountered along the way. In his extensive journals, correspondence, and essays Talbot states that rigorous experimentation would lead to, “consequences altogether unexpected, remote from usual experience and contrary to almost universal belief.”

My continued use of a film camera, especially a Holga whose output is often indeterminable, is a testament to Talbot’s legacy. It is still possible to embrace the “natural magic” inherent to the medium and I am continually astonished by even the possibility of fettering what Talbot called, “all that is fleeting and momentary,” in a photograph.