Sunday, 4 March 2012

Pioneers of Photography #1 - Peter Henry Emerson

Rowing Home the Schoof-Stuff (1886)
'Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience' [Peter Henry Emerson]

Peter Henry Emerson (1856-1936) was an early British photographer, raised in Cuba and the USA, then moving to England in 1869, where he spent the rest of his life. He continued his education in London and at university in Cambridge where he graduated with a degree in medicine and pursued a career as a surgeon. But in 1886 he abandoned medicine to become a full time photographer and writer.

His initial approach was to use photography as a tool to record precisely what the eye saw without enhancement or embellishment.[1] This put him at odds with the photography establishment, where the fashion was for combination printing, the technique of combining multiple photos to produce a single image. These opposing views were clearly unreconcilable, leaving each camp to go their separate ways.

Emerson's way was the rural English countryside. He took his camera to the rivers and broads of East Anglia, and in 1886 published his first collection of 40 platinum prints entitled Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads. More books followed as he created a fascinating portfolio of enchanting images of a world soon to be consumed into Mammon's bottomless abyss.

[1] He later changed his view and declared that photography was an art form and he would often take pictures out of focus. But a year later he again changed his view, now believing that photography was too mechanical ever to be considered an art.

In the Barley Harvest (1890)

Lone Lagoon (1895)

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