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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Thomas Spencer

Active:  UK

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Thomas Spencer
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

In April 1839 Spencer wrote to the Liverpool Mercury, ďSince Brewster invented the kaleidoscope, I know of nothing that has occupied so much attention as Mr. Talbotís ingenious mode of photogenic painting. . . . I am half ashamed to confess I have been led away with the mania.Ē Spencer went on to detail his own photographic method, similar to Talbotís but using ammonia as a fixer, and offered help to a correspondent in a subsequent article. In 1840 Spencer published Instructions for the Multiplication of Works of Art in Metal, by Voltaic Electricity, a subject that interested Talbot greatly and is reflected in his correspondence. Electroplating became a major force in industry, but Spencer gained little from it. Predictably, the metal plate of the daguerreotype appealed to him more than Talbotís paper, and he opened a daguerreotype portrait studio in Liverpool. He found that his exposure times were getting longer and longer, and fellow photographer and glass merchant James Alexander Forrest came to his rescue. The manganese in the glass of his skylight was turning it pink, blocking the actinic rays of sunlight. 
Roger Taylor & Larry J. Schaaf Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 4 Nov 2012. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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