Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840 – 1860 – Tate Britain

Jean Baptiste Frenet women-and-girls-doll © Wilson Centre for Photography
Jean Baptiste Frenet women and girls doll © Wilson Centre for Photography

25th February – 7th June 2015

Tate Britain Millbank
London SW1P 4RG United Kingdom

Opening times: Every day, 10.00–18.00

Admission: Adult £12.00 (without donation £10.90)
Concession £10.50 (without donation £9.50)

For further information: +44 (0)20 7887 8888/

Opening it’s doors today ‘Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840 – 1860’ is a rare treat, a display of exquisite salt prints from the 19th Century. This is a very exciting exhibition as it’s the first exhibition in Britain devoted to salted paper prints, one of the earliest forms of photography that was pioneered in Britian. This unique process was invented by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1839, from which the salt print process spread across the globe, creating a new visual language of the modern moment.

The show contains a wide range of prints from an array of different photographers such as Talbot, Baldus, Nègre, Nadar, Salzmann and Fenton as well as some lesser known names. It has been curated by Carol Jacobi (Curator of British Art 1850–1915) and Simon Baker (Photography International Art) in collaboration with the Wilson Centre for Photography.


This revolutionary photographic process transformed subjects, still lifes, portraits, landscapes and scenes of daily life into images. It brings it’s own luxurious aesthetic, soft textures, matt appearance and deep rich red tones, the variations seen throughout this exhibition is fascinating to observe. It’s also an incredible opportunity to view the original prints in an exhibition format, which has never been done before on a scale like this before.

The process starts with dipping writing paper in a solution of common salt, then partly drying it, coating it with silver nitrate, then drying it again, before applying further coats of silver nitrate, William Henry Fox Talbot pioneered what became known as the salt print and the world’s first photographic print! The specifically soft and luxurious aesthetic became an icon of modern visual language.

The few salt prints that survive are rarely seen due to their fragility. This exhibition is extremely important to recognise this historical process as well as a fantastic opportunity to see the rarest and best up close of early photographs of this type in the world.


 Tate Britain 

Images courtesy Tate Britain © Wilson Centre for Photography