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Chess game

Photographer: Antoine François Jean Claudet (1797 - 1867)

'The game of chess, c.1844–5'

In preparation for his partnership with Talbot, Claudet was instructed in the calotype process by Nicolaas Henneman, who may well have also been involved in the taking of this photograph. The composition includes Claudet himself, seated on the right.

Claudet was a French photographer and artist who produced daguerreotypes. He was born in Lyon, was active in Great Britain, and died in London. He was a student of Louis Daguerre.

Having acquired a share in Daguerre's invention, he was one of the first to practise daguerreotype portraiture in England. The idea of using painted backdrops is also attributed to him.

In 1851 he moved his business to 107 Regent Street, where he established what he called a 'Temple to Photography'.

Claudet received many honours, among which was the appointment, in 1853, as 'Photographer-in-ordinary' to Queen Victoria,Less than a month after his death, his Temple was burnt down and most of his photographic treasures were lost.

Salted paper print from a calotype negative

John Berger comments:

‘Every game of chess, like a game of cards, begins anew, offering pristine open choices. Thus, such games differ from life, where the continuity of cause and effect is endless, and no-one can ever return to start again at a beginning. This partly explains the deep and universal appeal of these games.

The camera, conceived to interrupt endless lived time at "a decisive moment", is unequipped to enter the discrete time of games. It can take pictures of the players but it can't enter the time-field of their game. Claudet's photograph shows a camera placed at a frontier beyond which the camera cannot go.’

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