Talbot's paper process

Detail of Salted-paper. William Henry Fox Talbot. Articles of Glass. 1844. 5 1/8 x 5 7/8" (13 x 15 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Richard Benson.

Like daguerreotypes, paper photographs must be fixed so that they are not affected by further exposure to light. Ironically, the fixing chemical can destroy the image if not thoroughly removed by washing. This small detail—about 1 3/4 by 1 1/2 inches—of a Talbot print shows the severe fading that afflicted most early paper photography. This print faded through improper processing. Even though it spent 150 years in darkness inside a book, it still changed as residual chemistry attacked the silver image.