Lecture 2 additional reading notes

  • Art has influenced photography over the years, but even today there is a debate going on as to whether photography is art.
  • In the early days they were very separate, with art being paintings etc, and photography being more of a science.
  • Photographic reproduction of art works was suggested early on by Fox Talbot, and Francois Arago.
  • The reproduction started to combine the cataloguing capability of photography with the interests of education.
  • Photographers soon formed firms largely devoted to art reproduction.
  • Marcus Aurelius the American photographer, stated that photographers could benefit “the lowliest of the community” and that photographs could bring to ‘the masses…. abundant and infinitely various stores of knowledge and entertainment. And “no small measure of artistic training”.
  • Even early on art influenced photography, but the possibility was also seen for photography to influence art.
  • It was helped when impressionist artists started using the viewfinder to create their paintings.
  • It wasn’t always accepted though Baudelaire, felt that photography should be kept for record keeping, but that the medium was restricting the range of human imagination.
  • This was backed up by artist Eugene Delacroix, who used the camera to study model for his paintings, but said that it was a machine that yielded pictures, untrue to the complexities of Human perception.
  • Nadar was a big influence in the art photography saga. He talks of how the process of photography itself is easily learnt, but how the use of light is what gives it its artistic nature.
  • Nadar was one of the first photographers to experiment with artificial light.
  • Pictorial effect was brought about by Rejlander and Peach Robinson.
  • They used chiaroscuro or “light dark” an artistic term used in painting.
  • Combination prints is what they were most famous for, combining multiple negatives to create a scene. The scenes were not truthful, though they were made to look it.
  • It was around this time when Women photographers started to make an appearance.
  • Harriot Tytler was one of the first of the amateur photographers. From a wealthy background, she had the funds and time available to pursue an interest in photography. She was classed as an amateur for this reason, not because of her lack of skill.
  • Lady Augusta Mostyn was another name associated with the early starting’s of women and photography. With her sister she participated in the Photographic Exchange club in Britain.
  • Lady Mostyn, established the Mostyn Art Gallery to show the work of the Gwyneed Ladies Art Society, which was the first gallery built specifically to showcase Women’s art work.
  • Much of the photographic work of upper-class women is not widely known, as they tended to be kept in private family collections. Lady Filmer is one of these unknown photographers/artists. She cut up photographs and arranged onto paper before painting it with watercolours.
  • Lady Hawarden was an amateur who produced around 800 photographs, of landscapes to portraits of her daughters. She won silver medals for her work as well as being elected to the Photographic society of London. She photographed her daughters in costumes, often using a mirror to add depth and to represent tension between reality and appearance and the line between art and life.
  • The most known female photographer at the time was Julia Margaret Cameron. Most famously she used the soft focus technique which tended to suit her style and subjects. She tended to use a subjects and turn them into characters from the bible, and Greek mythology. She was heavily criticized for the technique, as it was poor technical form.

 

Naturalism and Pictorialism

 

  • Peter Henry Emerson insisted that in the modern world, science was the only authentic basis for art and photography. He attempted along with Emilie Zola to align art with the cutting edge of science.
  • He rejected the idea of art being the primary source for personal and emotional expression.
  • Noted that the artist was someone of ability he disliked imaginative works, as they were no true to life.
  • He agreed with Helmholtz that “the perfect painting is only reached when we have succeeded in imitating the action of light upon the eye”.
  • He denied that the camera could make art by recording the physical reality.
  • Said that artists should translate EXACTLY how the eye sees, with the photographer focusing on only the main subject in the scene, allowing the rest to go blurry and indistinct.
  • This was known as selective focus.
  • Maintained that his early theory was based on a belief that tones in a photograph could be manipulated more than had been proved possible by chemists.
  • Emerson found amateur and art photographer pretentious.
  • They creatively misunderstood Emerson’s writings to move away from faithful depiction, toward more expressive photographs.
  • Emerson’s selective focus became a dislike of distracting parts of the scene, Pictorialists preferred to use fog and shadows.
  • Pictorialists valued their control over the growing industry, cultivating a sense of superiority over snap shooters, who didn’t develop their own film.
  • George Davison promoted an imprecice notion of impressionistic photography.
  • Soon words such as “poetic”, “art”, “naturalistic” and “impressionistic” were all words used to describe Pictorial photography.
  • Davisdon with his work shifted the foundations of art photography from science to art.
  • With the increased popularity commercial producers started making soft focus lenses.
  • Emerson criticized the Gum-bichromate process which was used to add pigment and texture to prints.
  • Kühn was a proponent of the technique.
  • He disliked the snapshot, claiming it wasn’t the way in which Humans saw the world. Although his shots themselves looked snapshot, they were cleverly directed and planned.
  • One of the first associations to form to promote art photography was the Vienna Camera Club.
  • These Art Photography Organisations tended to be international, with many members also being part of clubs worldwide.

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