The V&A's Photos of "Things"


London's Victoria & Albert Museum not only holds loads of objects and things, but an incredibly beautiful collection of photos of things.  Things: A Spectrum of Photography 1850-2001 showcases a century and a half of images from artists, scientists, reporters and commercial photographers. These are three of my favorites.  

(Above) Ludwig Belitski, German, 1830-1902
Tropies of Hunting, 16th and 17th Centuries
Salted paper print from glass negative, published in Models for Craftsmen, vol. II, 1855 by the Minutolisches Institut, Liegnitz, Silesia.

The Minutoli collection helped negate the division between fine and applied art.  In this photo, Diana Huntress holds court over a collection of 34 historic hunting objects, including a crossbow, German, Czech and Indian sporting guns (wheellock, flintlock and musket) and Indian long guns or Toradars, powder flasks, a hunting bag (trousse), hunting horns, knives and tankards.


Victor A. Prout, British, active 1850s-60s
Christmas Fare, 1855
Salted paper print from collodion on glass negative

Henry Cole, the V&A's founding director, acquired this image (one of the museum's first) after seeing it at the annual exhibition of the Photographic Society of London, held in a gallery off Piccadilly in 1856.  Like other photographers of the time, Prout emulated the still life of the easel-painting tradition.  By choosing a matte salted paper on which to print, Prout muted the sharp actuality that is the signature of collodion negatives.


John Dillwyn Llewelyn, British, 1810-82
Sewin, 1853
Salted paper print from glass negative

Like salmon, sewin, colloquial Welsh name for migratory brown sea trout, spends time feeding at sea before returning to the river of its birth to spawn.  Highly prized by anglers for their strength, beauty and elusiveness; and chefs for their delicately flavored pink flesh, this fine specimen is displayed on a traditional bass bag made of rush which, when soaked with water, keeps the fish cool by evaporation.  A boxwood four fold carpenter's rule has been included to show scale.

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