Collecting Feathers

Photogenic Drawings of Birds from Natural History Collections

Photogenic drawing is the term William Henry Fox-Talbot used in the 1830’s to describe his approach of placing an object directly onto paper coated with a light-sensitive solution to record the object’s shadow when exposed to light.

Contemporaneous with Fox-Talbot’s development of a negative-positive photographic process was a dramatic increase in interest for collecting and displaying birds in natural history collections.

The images in Collecting Feathers are photograms with 19th Century “display” birds exposed onto photographic paper while on-site at natural history museums. Single sheets of paper were used for smaller displays with multiple sheets for larger displays as needed, at times affecting image rendering due to paper shifts.