The Geologists, c. 1843
Salt print from calotype photograph
William Henry Fox Talbot’s image of a middle-class couple examining the geological formations in a cliff face belongs to an old pictorial tradition. In eighteenth-century paintings of couples promenading in the country, or visiting picturesque ruins, the husband often points out objects of interest to his wife, as the man does here. However, the photograph also reflects a contemporary trend. After the publication of Lyell’s Principles of Geology (1830) and its successors, including Darwin’s studies, many lay people became fascinated by the new scientific theories. Artists looked at landscape forms in a new light, as the effects of infinitely slow changes over millions of years reduced the span of human life on earth to insignificance.
National Media Museum, Bradford