July 17, 2007

Dr. Peter Henry Emerson

Peter Henry Emerson was one of the first vocal proponents of "naturalistic" art photography (photography done out in the field) at a time when most art photographers worked exclusively in the studio.

I've heard rumors that a museum in England is going to publish a catalog of Emerson's works for an upcoming show, but I'm not seeing anything on google. Do any readers out there know anything about this?

By the end of his life, Emerson completely reversed himself and published a pamphlet titled 'The Death of Naturalistic Photography'. A quote: "I have...I regret it deeply, compared photographs to great works of art, and photographers to great artists. It was rash and thoughtless, and my punishment is having to acknowledge it now... In short, I throw my lot in with those who say that Photography is a very limited art. I deeply regret that I have come to this conclusion..."

posted at 03:04 AM by raul

Filed under: photography

TAGS: early photography (3) naturalistic photography (1) peter henry emerson (1)


07/17/07 03:38 AM

I will do my best to find out for you

07/17/07 06:56 AM

This was published last year by Prestel Verlag- could this be the one ?

The Old Order and The New: P.H. Emerson and Photography, 1885-1895 (Hardcover)
by John Taylor (Author)

US List Price: $70.00
UK Equivalent: £34.80

Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Prestel Verlag (31 Oct 2006)
Language English
ISBN-10: 3791336991
ISBN-13: 978-3791336992

07/18/07 04:03 PM

Interesting comments on his parts and in some ways I agree with him, but not in the same way. Art, any Art, is naturally limiting and for the most part frustrating and unsatisfying; that's probably why we keep working to try and relive those three and a half minutes when we actually thought we did something nice.

Our minds can imagine far more than we can craft and achieve in our lifetimes. May be he was confusing imagined possibilities and those which had already come to pass, with the physical realities and the time constraints which more than anything, disallows us to catch up with only a fraction of the million ideas we dream up.
If he had had more time and quite possibly more money, he would have changed his mind.
Anyway, history proved him wrong. After him came the throngs who blissfully discounted the momentary depression of a man who might have had a camera but lacked the imagination to understand that given time, any new form of expression, however mundane, will eventually turn into great art.

Hey, a hundred thousand lemmings can't be wrong, and so can't a hundred thousands dollars, left alone, in their interest baring bank account. Over time artistic expression accrues not unlike those interest rates fattening up their accounts, even if your original investment seemed small and ridiculous.
Despite what he thought, there is nothing like traveling back in time and seeing what it really looked like, that might actually be more interesting than any 'Art'. How I wish photography had been invented by amphibians, four hundred million year ago in swamp the size of Argentina. I'd kill to see stills the first flowering plants, a Cretaceous ocean, or Napoleon in bed with a mistress or a mud covered peasant eating gruel in Medieval France. I'd kill to see stills of Polynesia circa 1665 or China in 755, when the Tang Dynasty was just starting to hit its strides.
Emerson, not to worry, if your work is still around a thousand year from now, no one will give a shit what you thought of photography and how it compared to other arts. Their eyes will bug out and they'll tank you for taking your camera to a that marsh in East Anglia, back in 1899.

04/09/08 05:20 PM

Yes there's a show coming in the Fall of 2008 at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk Virginia. I don't know about England.
Show at Chrysler museum:
The Old Order and The New: P. H. Emerson and Photography, 1885-1895
July 2–November 9, 2008
Have fun.

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