Bright Sparks: Photography and the Talbot Archive

About the exhibition

Bright Sparks: Photography and the Talbot Archive celebrates the Bodleian Libraries' acquisition of the archive of the British inventor of photography, William Henry Fox Talbot, and the legacy of his life and work.

This fascinating exhibition puts items from the archive in conversation with the works of contemporary artists. It brings the archive to life in new ways, showcasing how Talbot’s work influenced and inspired other artists. Bright Sparks creates a dialogue between past and present – between Talbot’s pioneering experiments and the practices and concerns of later photographers.

The exhibition includes key works from the Bodleian Libraries’ collections alongside photography by figures such as Hiroshi Sugimoto, Cornelia Parker, Man Ray, Martin Parr, Carleton Watkins, Daniel Meadows, Helen Muspratt, Julia Margaret Cameron, Justine Varga, Camille Corot, Kilian Brier, Anne Ferran, Alison Rossiter, Gerhard Richter and Garry Fabian Miller.

Image credit: Three plants, William Henry Fox Talbot, c.1843: photogenic drawing paper negative by contact (Bodleian Library MS. 21088 photogr. 2, fol. 8r)

Nameless Things

 On display in the Proscholium, Old Bodleian Library

A companion display referencing William Henry Fox Talbot's experimental photography, which features a large photographic work, Alopecia, by the contemporary artist Justine Varga.


This exhibition is curated by Geoffrey Batchen, Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford and a specialist in the history of photography.

Around Oxford


During the 1840s, William Henry Fox Talbot photographed 127 views of Oxford.

Download the map below to guide you around Oxford so you too can follow in Talbot’s footsteps, recreate a version of his images – or introduce your own unique perspectives – and take a photographic journey through time and space.

Please look after your own safety while photographing and be respectful of others who may also be using the street you are on.

Be sure to tag us on our social media channels and we’ll share our favourites.

Download the map  


A new body of work responding to the photography of William Henry Fox Talbot from the Talbot Catalogue Raisonée.

Anne Howeson 'Feet of Angels' at Carey Blyth Gallery 
18 March – 29 April 2023
Carey Blyth Gallery


We would like to thank the National Heritage Memorial Fund, whose generosity enabled us to purchase the Archive of William Henry Fox Talbot and the Talbot family, alongside the many other donors who supported the campaign.

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