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Peter Henry Emerson

(Cuba, United States of America, England 1856 – 1936)

A marsh farm
circa 1885
Media category
Materials used
platinotype photograph

21.8 x 29.0 cm image/sheet; 28.7 x 40.7 cm card

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Accessioned 1983
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

Peter Emerson made a significant contribution to Victorian photography. He argued that a photograph should imitate the eye and in so doing be naturalistic in affect. Emerson contended that a photograph should be taken slightly out of focus in order to achieve the effect of a distinct sharpness at the centre of the image and a slight blurriness at the periphery.

Emerson's work is testament to the artistic qualities of photography and its purpose outside of documentation. However, Emerson was stringent in his dedication to naturalism and berated any sense of emotion in a photograph. Therefore, whilst Emerson and fellow photographer George Davison agreed with the redundancy of sharpness in photography, Emerson was openly critical of Davison's impressionistic aesthetic.

Bibliography (1)

Renée Free and Rose Peel, Dreams and realities: Victorian works on paper, Sydney, 1993, 8.

Exhibition history (3)

International Photographs from the Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 Jan 1991–14 Apr 1991

Dreams and realities: Victorian works on paper, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 07 Aug 1993–24 Oct 1993

Soft but True: John Kauffmann (1864-1942) Art Photographer, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 Nov 1996–27 Feb 1997

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