Capturing the Light


Written in collaboration with Roger Watson, Curator of the Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock Abbey

Boulevard du Temple, Paris, by Louis Daguerre 1839

Boulevard du Temple

by  Louis Daguerre 1839

Published in the UK by PanMacmillan, 25 April 2013   USA: St Martin’s Press, 26 November 2013

Capturing the Light  UK Edition Capturing the Light  U S Edition

US Edition




UK Edition






The enthralling story of the two lone geniuses - Henry Fox Talbot and Louis Daguerre - who simultaneously strove to find a way to capture an image and keep it for ever.Talbot was a quiet, English gentleman amateur, Dauguerre a flamboyant, charismatic French showman. But who got there first?


Reads like a scientific thriller … this dramatically staged narrative certainly gives you some sense of the closeness of the race between the two main rivals who claimed to be the inventors of photography.


This is a great story that touches very much on the differing cultural "establishments" on each side of the Channel. … Watson and Rappaport have a good time weaving in a number of telling intersections between the two men … a lively introduction to the subject.

Financial Times

A cheerfully readable account of both the men and the magic, guiding us through the chemistry but never losing sight of the sheer wonderment in fixing an instant for eternity. Their enthusiasm … is catching.

Sunday Telegraph

This book gives considerable detail about the scientific development of the various stages of photography which will delight the experts.

The Scotsman

Capturing the Light reads like a historical thriller, the well-paced narrative evoking both the exhilaration and frustration experienced by those in the vanguard of scientific discovery.

Victorian Geek blog

Watson…and Rappaport…have written a detailed and intensely interesting account.


A fascinating tale…neatly interweaved. The result is a compelling tale of two men of genius, whose vision, brilliance ad determination enabled them to create photography.

Black and White magazine  

A vivid and stunning read .. Should you have any interest at all in the subject of photography, the VV highly recommends this wonderful book

The Virtual Victorian blog

For a review article of Capturing the Light on Platform 505: The Thinking Woman's Website  go to:


The parallel stories of the two very different men who both laid claim to having invented photography are cleverly narrated … with all the drama of a carefully paced thriller.

Country Life

Hiistorians Watson and Rappaport offer an energetically written and deftly paced history of photography’s origins, including the intricate rivalries surrounding Talbot and Daguerre’s laborious attempts to permanently capture images seen through the camera obscura. ... Though Daguerre reaped many more commercial rewards, Talbot emerges as a humble, hardworking genius in this gripping popular history.

Publishers Weekly

The book is very readable, even exciting – good on the science and particularly good on the characters and social backgrounds of the two men.

Wall Street Journal

A well-timed and welcome history of the invention and spread of photography in the nineteenth century.


Tells a lively, sympathetic story of both men, along with others present at the birth of photography, an art form that owes so much to chemistry.

Boston Globe




The 1830s saw intense efforts by photography’s two founding fathers, Henry Fox Talbot and

Louis Daguerre in their separate attempts to develop revolutionary photographic processes.

While the reclusive, aristocratic polymath Henry Fox Talbot was working on his new process

in the seclusion of his English country estate at Lacock Abbey, in Paris the theatrical set and

‘Diorama’ designer Louis Daguerre was developing his own radically different

‘Daguerreotype’ process.

Capturing The Light tells the vivid story of how these two giants of early photography overcame extraordinary odds to fundamentally change the world and how we see it.

Jon Butler at PanMacmillan said: ‘"This is narrative non-fiction at its very best‚ a tale of two lone geniuses racing to be the first to solve an ancient puzzle, in the best tradition of Longitude or Fermat's Last Theorem. And at the very heart of the book, a tiny, ghostly image of a Victorian window, so small and perfect that it 'might be supposed to be the work of some Lilliputian artist': the world'sfirst photographic negative.

We can't wait to bring this fascinating story to a wider audience."

See the website of the Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock Abbey


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