In the well-documented correspondence between Talbot and his mother Lady Elisabeth Theresa Feilding (1773-1846), observations of flowers, shrubs and foliage were regular features and hence it seems natural that Talbot turned his camera to the garden at an early date. However Talbot and fellow scientist-photographers soon discovered that the calotype negative material was insensitive to green light, which made foliage a challenging subject to capture. In a letter of 1841 to Talbot, the French scientist Jean-Baptiste Biot (1774-1862) commented on the dark and dense quality of the ivy leaves in one of Talbot's photographs and attributed it to this discovery.1 Here in A Bush of Hydrangea in Flower, Talbot has skilfully manipulated this characteristic to achieve the desired effect: the foliage framing the hydrangea bush acts as a dark background from which the bright flowers project with prominence.
The National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, Bradford holds the negative and eight prints, and the William Henry Fox Talbot Trust holds another. Prints of this image are rare and this is one of only a few known prints in private hands.
1 L.J. Schaaf, The Correspondence of William Henry Fox Talbot, University of Glasgow, http//www.foxtalbot.arts.gla.ac.uk, document 04212.