My dearest reader,
You guessed it right; it is once again late on a Saturday and I am just getting started. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am tired and keeping a weekly newsletter while fun is actually a good amount of work. With that, Sheyxpeare Shorts will take a new format: I will alternate between a full newsletter and a short fun-fact edition every other Sunday in the hopes that having two weeks to prepare a full story will help me start writing at least a couple of days in advance. One can only hope.
While on a hike this morning, I passed a woman taking a selfie with a beautiful view of the ocean behind her and it got me thinking about the history of women in photography. I have recently discovered that the answers to my “I wonder…” questions can be found on Google dot com. So, as my out-of-shape body struggled to make its way up the hillside I wondered who the first women to take a photograph and be photographed were (I am prone to asking very broad questions) and I Googled it. Here is what I found:
The oldest surviving photograph taken by a woman is The Quillian Leaf by Sara Anne Bright: artist & photographer. The photo was originally thought to have been taken by William Henry Fox Talbot until 2015 when the initials on the photograph were matched to Sara’s handwriting on her watercolors.
Constance Fox Talbot, William Henry Fox Talbot’s wife, was a very talented artist. So talented, in fact, that when Henry realized he had no hope of matching her artistic abilities, he began working on a method of capturing scenes without having to draw it and ended up inventing the negative-positive process of photography. Nothing gets in the way of a person trying to one-up their spouse. ANYWAY, it is possible that during his experiments Constance also played around with taking photographs which could potentially make her the first woman ever to take a photograph.
And the first woman to be photographed? WELL, this is a fun story. In 1839 Louis Daguerre invented the daguerreotype photographic process which sent inventors into a frenzy of playing around with methods of photography. By 1840, while William Talbot was inventing the negative-positive process, John William Draper was researching photochemistry and made portrait photography possible. Both the men turned to the women in their lives as their subjects.
You mean…there’s two women who were photographed around the same time? Yes. While there’s discussion around the exact dates, sometime in 1840 (possibly end of 1839) John William Draper took a portrait of his sister Dorothy Catherine Draper.
Around the same time (or possibly later in 1840), William Henry Fox Talbot captured a photograph of Constance.
So who was the first woman to be photographed? There is no doubt that Dorothy was the first woman to appear in a portrait because, well, her brother invented the method. But as to who was the first one to be photographed: I’m going to call it a tie between Constance and Dorothy but draw your own conclusions, I’m not the boss of you.
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