This morning I made the short hop across London to attend the National Portrait Gallery’s preview of pioneering photographer Camille Silvy’s work.
Silvy was one of the early founders of 19th century photography across a number of disciplines. The French artist’s work in photo manipulation also helped to set the standard for modern-day artists.
I was immediately impressed by the depth of the exhibition, which is the first ever retrospective exhibition of the photographer’s work.
The display includes Silvy’s stunning work in rural scenes, fashion portraits and snapshots of everyday Victorian life, but also artefacts such as the dress Alice Silvy wore in one of his portraits.
Arguably the most striking example of Silvy’s work is the tranquil river landscape entitled River Scene. In this picture, Silvy used different negatives to capture the view, one for the sky and one for the landscape.
The Studies on Light series of three photos including Sun, Twilight and Fog, are also noteworthy. In Twilight – the most alluring – a man is buying his newspaper from a young boy in a deserted street, while a blurred object lurks in the dimming light, creating a mystical aura.
Blurring, the use of multiple negatives, and the burning-in method used in River Scene are just a few examples of Silvy’s pioneering techniques.
Make sure you don’t miss Silvy’s Daybooks, already part of the National Portrait Gallery’s collection. These include fantastic examples of early fashion photography beginning in 1867 with Miss Valpy.