National Trust Lacock Abbey Commissions
In 2012 I was commissioned by the National Trust at Lacock Abbey in Wiltsure to produce two outdoor sculptures responding to the work of pioneering photographer Henry Fox Talbot who created the first photographic negative at the Abbey in 1839. The sculptures encouraged visitors to make connections between the Fox Talbot Museum documenting his optical experiments and the Abbey Gardens where he took some of his first images.
Adorned with solid glass orbs, prisms and mirrors the coated steel tree is 2.5 metres tall and reflects his interest in botany and optics.
Talbot must have been stunned when he made his first paper negative – no one had ever seen such a surreal image. He commented in his book Pencil of Nature that he thought they were 'extremely beautiful as they were' but of course they were the first step of his photographic process. The trees on the estate were regular subjects of his photographic experiments so I was eager to make the connection between his work and the Abbey gardens. By producing a large white negative image on transparent glass the darkness of the woodland behind merges with the photographic detail and viewers can find the positive image in the nearby field. The window frame suggests looking out into the world: Talbot indeed had a very different view of our future when he peered through his windows from the Abbey. He may not have seen that negatives are now in danger of being forgotten in the digital world.