Monday, 5 March 2012

Pioneers of Photography #2 - Henry Peach Robinson

The Lady of Shalott (1861)

In 1895 the journal The Photogram wrote of Henry Peach Robinson:
'Mr Robinson stands, as he has done for years, as probably the best known man in photography, and the one whose words and example have done more than those of any other man to create and encourage photographic workers'.

H.P. Robinson was born in 1830 and during his lifetime was one of the most successful commercial photographers in Great Britain. He encouraged photographers to create a 'pictorial effect' in their pictures, making use of the darkroom to combine negatives, as well as costuming and posing his subjects. In his own work he would carefully stage elaborate tableaux in picturesque settings, using relatives to  serve as models. An example of this technique is his picture titled The Lady of Shalott, which was made from three negatives. The image also bears an affinity with the Pre-Raphaelites, of which Robinson was a keen follower.

Sadly, the long hours spent in his darkroom, with the consequent exposure to harmful chemicals, had a detrimental effect of his health, to such an extent that he was forced to give up his studio at the comparatively young age of 34, and to devote his time to the theoretical side of photography. He thereafter wrote and published a number of reference books in which he continued to promote photography as an art form. He died in 1901.

Fading Away (1858)

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