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The art of Pictorialism through images

At the end of the 19th century, shortly after the birth of photography, the first artistic photographic movement, Pictorialism, emerged. We have all seen paintings depicting romanticized images, more or less from another reality, with dreamlike subjects, airy existences and lyrical composition, such as the paintings of the Romantic period. There came a time when artists needed to experiment with this practice in their photography as well.


With Henry Peach Robinson pioneering the practice, this tradition began to be reflected in images. In order to succeed in capturing fairy-tale-like scenes in photographs - at a time when photoshop and cgi were something like science fiction - one had to sweat over the joining of many frames and shots in order to achieve the desired result. Using modern terms, one would say that this method resembled collage. Below are some examples of the work of the father of Pictorialism, Robinson.




Pictorialists would set up a scene in pieces and photograph it, so that they could then put all the photos together. Structurally, the photographs do not consist of any special effects, allowing light and shadows to impart all kinds of emotions.


One of the first great women photographers, Gertrude Käsebier, belonged to the Pictorialist movement and was known for her work "The Manger", which was printed on a glass plate.



The Manger

Nevertheless, Gertrude as a professional as well as her accomplished works altogether have the ability to spellbind you with their beauty, as well as remind you of what a woman with that kind of imagination is capable of accomplishing, even at the zenith of patriarchy. Below are some distinctive examples of her work.





With a cursory glance at the photos above, we get the general picture of Pictorialism (see what I did there?). They look like images taken from the fairy tales we were told as children, some, in fact, in their grotesque versions. Personally, I wouldn't want to be in the same room as some of these heroes. However, they certainly give us food for thought and spark the imagination in matters such as how advanced Robinson and his ilk were, as well as how one gets from fiction to the formation of a single whole image.


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