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Annual lecture

The Colin Ford Lecture   

The 2020 lecture, The Future of the Past: The William Henry Fox Talbot Catalogue Raisonné took place on 6 February at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. 

Professor Larry Schaaf has been examining and compiling information on Talbot images worldwide for more than four decades. Beginning in 2014, with the backing of the William T Hillman Foundation, the Bodleian Libraries undertook converting these private databases into a public resource.  So far, images and data on more than 16,000 photographs have been made freely available on the website.  These allow individual researchers to pursue their own questions and draw their own conclusions.

The event was ‘sold out’, but free, with a number of hopefuls queuing at the door for no shows.  The lecture is available to download at:

The lecture is named in Colin Ford’s honour. Between 1972 and 1982 he was Keeper of the film and photography collections at the National Portrait Gallery.  He then became the first Director of the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television at Bradford.


The Hurter & Driffield Lecture   

Following years of collaboration in their free time, Dr Ferdinand Hurter, the chemist at an alkali works in Widnes, and Mr David Vero Driffield, the works foreman, published a paper in 1890 on their photographic investigations.   The introduction stated: “The production of a perfect picture by means of photography is an art; the production of a technically perfect negative is a science.”

The publication in Liverpool upset many people; the authorities in London, magazine editors and members of photographic societies challenged their conclusions and for eight years, Hurter and Driffield toiled to defend their principles.   Peace was restored when The Royal Photographic Society invited the two men to London to present aspects of their recent work.   By then, Hurter was very ill and died a few weeks later.

In 1898, a working party set up by The RPS Council made three suggestions – to publish a volume on their investigations, or to establish an archive of their papers and to establish a lecture in their memory.   All three recommendations were accepted.

Nowadays the lecture is held every two years and the speaker receives a silver medal featuring an image of the famous H & D characteristic curve.  As a general rule, the lecture addresses an important aspect of photographic progress.  

Thanks to Dr Ron Callendar, the H&D oracle, for the above.