WHAT IS A PICTORIALIST?

"For the pictorialist, a photograph, like a painting, drawing or engraving, is a way of projecting an emotional intent into the viewer's realm of imagination.

 

Pictorialism refers to a style in which the photographer has somehow manipulated what would otherwise be a straightforward photograph as a means of "creating" an image rather than simply recording it. Typically, a pictorial photograph appears to lack a sharp focus (some more so than others), is printed in one or more colors other than black-and-white (ranging from warm brown to deep blue), often incorporates elements from other photographs, and may have visible brush strokes or other manipulation of the surface."*

In 1869, Henry Peach Robinson promoted what he called "combination printing", a method that combined individual elements from separate images into a new single image by manipulating multiple negatives or prints. Robinson thus considered that he had created "art" through photography, since it was only through his direct intervention that the final image came about. 

 

As Robert Demachy noted in his 1899 article What Difference is There Between a Good Photograph and an Artistic Photograph?"We must realize that, on undertaking pictorial photography, we have, unwittingly perhaps, bound ourselves to the strict observance of rules hundreds of years more ancient than the oldest formulae of our chemical craft. We have slipped into the Temple of Art by a back door, and found ourselves amongst the crowd of adepts."

*Definition drawn from Daum, Patrick (Ed.) Impressionist Camera: Pictorial Photography in Europe, 1888–1918 (2006) as paraphrased in the Wikipedia entry for pictorialism.

© 2017 by Bob Weil.