Now and then I come across a historic figure and ask “Was this Me?”
Usually the answer is “I really don’t know.” If I have to ask, it’s usually because I have no memory, and most of the historic figures have been dead ends because the case was just not compelling enough.
But now and then I come across one and it really does make me wonder.
Consider the case of William Henry Fox Talbot, an early English photographer. While I have no memory of having been him, I do know this much about him:
1. He lived at Lacock Abbey, a former monastery turned manor founded by William Longespee’s widow, Ela.
2. He was high sheriff of Wiltshire, a post held by William Longespee.
3. He died in 1877, the same year John was born (though I don’t know exactly WHEN in 1877 John was born).
4. He was a photographer; I was practically born with a camera in my hand and I have photos I took when I was 2 or 3, and have been taking pictures ever since.
5. He basically invented the “window shot.”
This last fact is very fascinating, because while in England I came to be very fond of the sort of high-contrast window shot created by Fox Talbot.
Here is Fox Talbot’s original window shot, a view through one of Lacock Abbey’s windows.
Here is a shot I took at Peveril Castle in 2004. It’s worth noting that Peveril Castle had been in royal possession since the time of Henry II, William Longespee’s father, and may have been used by him:
This was taken at my childhood home in South Carolina, around 2002 or so:
I innovated a bit on the theme in this one, taken at the abandoned Queen Elizabeth Hospital in southern England, 2005:
A very different sort of window shot, Rhyolite, NV 2007:
That’s all I could find on my hard drive, though I have lots more “window shots” like these, some in color, including one I took in 2001 in Shakespeare’s birth home and one I took of a stained glass window at Notre Dame de Paris that same year.
So was I trying to recapture an iconic image, traveling the world looking for the window I took that first image through, or was I simply copying a type of image that had become so commonplace in photography that I was repeating a meme? Unless I find something else to tie me to Fox Talbot besides locations, public offices, and a superficial resemblance in photographic style, I really can’t say. But it’s always interesting to wonder.