Peter Henry Emerson
Emerson was all for the truthfulness of photography. He felt photography an art of science, not an art on its own. He believed the photograph should document how the eye see, using selective focus on the main subject, allowing the rest to go into slight blur. He talked of photographs being their own, not some representation of previous art work, as he puts it “call yourself a photographer and wait for artists to call you brother”.
He was deeply against the retouching process, no matter what the subject. In portraiture he talks of how the retoucher puts on the uniform, with the vignetter and burnisher completing the disguise. He sates “Do not mistake sharpness for truth, and burnish for finish.” The camera for Emerson was a way of showing the world as it was, as the Human sees it, to use for “historical records”. The bad press and critics never bothered him, photography was raw and truthful like science, art to Emerson was a cover up, starting out with the truth but covering it up to seek beauty.
Henry Peach Robinson
Robinson took a different view on the photograph than Emerson. Robinson was a Pictorialist, he saw the photograph as means of art, for idealising the world, or creating scenarios that looked real but had in reality were staged. He talks of how it is the fashion to show nature as it is, show her “bare” and “bald”, believing though that it is man that has made nature that way, not nature itself.
He talks of how a colour photograph (not possible at the time) would show realism in the perfect way. He understands the usefulness of this, but it is merely a representation of what something is, something, that in itself would never be art. To Robinson at the time of the invention of photography, this was great, but he believed now with more modern advances it could offer so much more. Realism photographs said nothing to him, it left out the “mystery” which for Robinson was all part of the charm. Realism bored him, straight, and simple, but Pictorialism intrigued him, it was no longer science, there was no formula to it, it relied on the photographer and the vision they had in order to create something. They could create the mystery, making it artful in nature, retouching enabled this, he didn’t believe it was a bad thing, but bad retouching was, much like today with post processing. He believed retouching should enhance not change the photograph, and it was the goal of the new movement to represent this.