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What can written letters tell us about the visual medium of photography?

My dear

In this small exhibition, you get access to twelve letters from famous photographers, researchers and inventors who have left their mark on the many photographic histories.

  • A woman in a large dress sits at a table and reads a letter.
    H. J. Mockett, Business card portrait of a woman reading a letter, c. 1860–1870. Preus Museum collection.

Letters and other written communication have had a great impact on the development of and understanding of photography. They give us little stories about photography and the people behind them. As written sources, letters can tell us something about technique, chemistry and photography at the given time. 

In addition, texts about photography are a possible start to a sustained discourse about photography, which develops in step with photography's changing practices.

In the exhibition, you can let yourself be fascinated by the fact that you are looking at a piece of paper with a text, written by people a very long time ago, in a time that was quite different from our present. What can you read from the way the letter is written? Is it done in haste, or is it a painstakingly written letter? Maybe it was written in anger or joy?

It is certain that handwriting is something personal and almost intimate. Often we can recognize the handwriting of someone close to us. In the exhibition there is a separate space where you can write a letter to someone yourself.

A letter from Daguerre himself

Undated letter from LouisJacques MandéDaguerre(1787–1851) to Herr Clarac. Preus Museum's collection.
Daguerre has remained the inventor of photography.

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In the letter he writes:

My dear Mr. Clarac.

I am at home every day from noon (12 o'clock) to three o'clock, and I would be flattered to receive them at home and show you the results of my work on the light.

Yours sincerely


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In this exhibition, you will see letters from pioneers in the history of photography such as Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre (1787–1851), who has remained the inventor of photography, and William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1870), who introduced the world to the possibilities of copying images from a negative. But you will also be introduced to other actors who have left their mark in their own way over the years. Did you know, for example, that the first photo book at all was made by a woman named Anna Atkins (1799–1871), or that Norway's first book on photography was published in 1845?

The letters you find in My dear are small fragments in a large context and can be seen as small hints of more and larger stories. All the letters are part of Preus Museum's collection, and it is the first time they have been shown to a larger audience. 

Curator: Maja Holst Svendsen
Exhibition team: Marthe Strand, Andreas Kaardahl
Conservator: Jens Gold

Museum24:Portal - 2024.04.15
Grunnstilsett-versjon: 2