Henry Peach Robinson
b: 1830 Ludlow
d: 1901 Tunbridge Wells V&A - Wikipedia
[20Oct21 p.32] Painters and critics could dismiss photography as mechanical rather than creative and so some photographers sought to counter this by painterly effect on their negatives and subsequent prints. One of the leaders was Henry Peach Robinson and his Brotherhood of the Linked Ring. The vital point they conspicuously failed to grasp was, of course, that the ability to accurately and clearly represent objects is photography's USP (and the creativity is applied by means of arrangement, background and lighting).
Another detour was the astonishing but ultimately purposeless multi-negative work of the painter Rejlander. Robinson used this technique too, quite effectively.
Peter Henry Emerson
b: 1856 Cuba
d: 1936 Falmouth Met - Wikipedia
Their efforts did have effect within photographic circles but no effect on the status of the medium in the wider art world.
Other workers continued to explore and develop the true potential of the medium, such as Peter Henry Emerson's documentation of life on the Norfolk Broads. It is worth noting that even amongst straight photographers, because of the technical limitations of emulsions, it was generally regarded as acceptable to join separate (related) exposures of sky and ground in a single image. Wells (2011, pp.33, 306),
initially photographers had difficulty with the landscape, as it was not possible to expose for land and sky simultaneously (since the different light intensities required differing lengths of exposure)...
It only became possible to expose simultaneously for land and sky towards the turn of the century.
Wells, 2011, pp.33, 306)
Gustave Le Gray
b: 1820 France d: 1884 Cairo Met - Wikipedia
Beil (2020, p.44) states that "combination printing, as it was called, was widely employed for landscapes throughout the nineteenth century" and mentions, in particular, the work of Gustave Le Gray, "celebrated internationally for his dramatic seascapes" (p.44), see fig. A4.
[30Oct] Describe and contrast C18th and C19th landscape painting and modern landscape photography.
Definitions of Modernism and Post-Modernism were attempted recently in the Blog.
b: 1871 Ohio d: 1925 Mexico City WikipediaEdward Steichen
b: 1879 Luxembourg d: 1973 Connecticut
Site - Wikipedia
[21Oct p.35] In the US, pictorialism was taken up by the Photo-Secessionists, Alfred Stieglitz, Clarence White and Edward Steichen. Their work was impressionistic but Steiglitz, who edited Camera Work and ran the 291 Gallery, showing both photographs and other media began to move away from pictorialist excess
The cmat [p.36] identifies Stieglitz's 1912 The Steerage as a key work, "a defining moment within the history of pictorialism", combining realism, recognisable characters, "an abstract collection of forms and tones" and "a sense of ... emotional response".
The cmat. goes on to nicely describe Stieglitz's shift,
[He] retained the pictorialists’ desire to render an emotional response within a
photograph, but Stieglitz believed he had achieved this by embracing
photography’s unique ability to reproduce optical clarity captured within a
split-second. The term ‘straight photography’ was used to define this approach,
and it marked a radical shift towards celebrating photography (within creative
circles) for what it really was.
LPE p. 37
[22Oct, p.38] We come to Edward Weston and Ansel Adams who carried on from Stieglitz. In the early 1930s they were part of the (short-lived) f/64 Group. The group (manifesto here) believed in small apertures for maximum depth of focus and exposing the perfect negative. It was all about detail. Although they did not manipulate negatives in the pseudo-artistic ways of the Pictorialists, they dodged and burned in the darkroom as necessary. I have a piece somewhere discussing how many "versions" there are of a particular Adams negative, all legitimate and all for good reasons - FIND IT.
Wells describes Adams' growing interest in the Sierra mountains, starting with his visits as a teenager and his increasing involvement in conservation activities throughout his life. Adams set up a studio and lived in Yosemite. Wells states,
His subsequent acclaim as a photograpl1er is an example of
the art institution adopting the work of particular individuals and
thereby enhancing the influence of what is, in this context, often defined
in modernist terms as their 'vision'.
Wells, 2011, p. 137
She later notes,
Adams … explicitly acknowledged the influence of
the New York photographer/curator, Alfred Stieglitz, who emphasised a
notion of equivalence in photography. For Stieglitz, the photograph
offers an equivalent to the feelings and responses experienced by the
photographer on seeing something of significance. In other words, the
subjectivity of the photographer as artist is clearly credited. For Adams,
formalism was not a matter of objectivity· rather it was a complex event
or engagement within which the photographer expresses something of
that which has caught attention or preoccupied.
Wells, 2011, p. 138
A final quote from Wells, "It might be added that his vision of landscape remains influential
internationally, as a starting point for students and, more generally, as a continuing eulogisation of the sublime." (2011, pp. 138, 140). This is merely noted as the notion of the sublime comes up later in Part 1.
Adams concentrated on the rugged landscapes, particularly of Yosemite National Park. Weston, as described in the cmat (p.40) as "more experimental".
Adams' approach to photography was (having become an authority on the emulsions and equipment he used) to previsualise the image and maximise the tonal range of the exposure using the Zone System he developed with Fred Archer.
Wells wrote of Weston (2011, p.138)
of the imagery made by
various f64 members … Edward Weston, in particular, has come up for
discussion in terms of the sexualisation of objects photographed
(McGrath, 1987 †).
Wells, 2011, p. 138
† McGrath, Roberta (1987). ‘Re-reading Edward Weston’, Ten/8 No. 27, reproduced in Liz Wells, ed. (2003). The Photography Reader . London: Routledge.
Weston described his method in The Flame of Recognition (1971), extracts from his diaries and letters,
My way of working –
I start with no preconceived idea – discovery excites me to focus - then rediscovery through the lens – final form of presentation seen on ground glass, the finished print pre-visioned complete in every detail of texture, movement, proportion, before exposure – the shutter’s release automatically and finally fixes my conception, allowing no after manipulation – the ultimate end, the print, is but a duplication of all that I saw and felt through my camera.
Edward Weston, The Flame of Recognition (1971), p.41
[23Oct] In the nineteenth century, two key strands in the medium were the naturalist photographers such as Peter Henry Emerson who pursued straight representational, documentary photography and the Pictorialists who sought to make photography more "artistic" through complex manual and chemical processes. The Pictorialists aim was to gain wider acceptance in the art world. In the US, Stieglitz, White and Steichen as Photo-Secessionists were leading Pictorialists. Stieglitz in particular began to move away from Pictorialist excess in C20th with his version of subjective realism and that's where Modernism began. Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and the F64 group continued to develop this approach with Adams being a straight landscapist and Weston "more experimental".