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Pioneering Photographers of Reading

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Sacristy (Cloisters at Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire) by William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877)

The Museum’s collection contains photographs by some of the world’s pioneering photographers. This is fitting as Reading was the location of one of the world’s first commercial photographic studios, operating between 1844 and 1847. It was called the ‘Reading Establishment’ and was managed by a Dutchman called Nicholaas Henneman for William Henry Fox Talbot, pioneer of the photographic negative. The studio was situated in Baker Street, then called Russell Terrace.

Fox Talbot had invented the first photographic process using a negative image to make a positive print. He called the images Talbotypes, but they were more commonly known as calotypes. Many of the images for The Pencil of Nature by Fox Talbot, the first book to be illustrated with photographic prints, were printed in Reading.

Reading was also home to three generations of pioneering portrait photographers, the Adams family: Walton, Marcus and Gilbert. In the 1880s Queen Victoria invited Walton Adams to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight to photograph her and her large family.

Walton’s son Marcus first photographed Princess Elizabeth in 1926 when she was just eight months old. From the 1930s onwards, his portraits of the young Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret were reproduced throughout the world in many magazines, on souvenirs and on stamps throughout the Commonwealth.

As a young photographer, Gilbert Adams was able to capture informal images of the Royal Family while assisting his father Marcus during formal photographic sessions at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. In 1953 Gilbert directed the lighting in Westminster Abbey for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

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