The decisive moment had been explored through an infinite variety
of great images over the past decades. However, there came a point,
that I was looking at images that looked like those of other great
photographers where only the subject matter would be slightly
different, from one author to the next. But what could follow
after “great images” would be for me, the great unanswered
art there has always been this search for new formal solutions
to express the ever changing potential presented by and through
new tools. So throughout the history of art, we have a panorama
that has always been in the process of transformation. The present
moment, being no exception.
regard to photography, pictorialism
was an important movement at the end of the nineteenth century
up to the start of the twentieth.
Robert Leggat, wrote in 1999, the following:
“The modern usage of this term may give a misleading picture
of the movement as it arose in the second half of the nineteenth
century; in any case, like the all-embracing word "art"
it is a most elusive, intangible, and highly subjective term.
In modern parlance it is sometimes taken
to suggest conservatism, and the unwillingness to explore new
approaches. In its original meaning anything that put the finished
picture first and the subject second was pictorialism.
Given such a meaning, pictorialism by no means excluded more modern
trends; any photograph that stressed atmosphere or viewpoint rather
than the subject would come under this category.
the second half of the nineteenth century the novelty of capturing
images was beginning to wear off, and some people were now beginning
to question whether the camera, as it was then being used, was
in fact too accurate and too detailed in what it recorded. This,
coupled with the fact that painting enjoyed a much higher status
than this new mechanistic process, caused some photographers to
adopt new techniques which, as they saw it, made photography more
of an art form. These new techniques came also to be known as
effect, the term Pictorialism is used to describe photographs
in which the actual scene depicted is of less importance than
the artistic quality of the image. Pictorialists would be more
concerned with the aesthetics and, sometimes, the emotional impact
of the image, rather than what actually was in front of their
pictorialism was seen as artistic photography, one would not be
surprised that current styles of art would be reflected in their
work; as impressionism was in vogue at the time, many photographs
have more than a passing resemblance to paintings in this style.
Examples of this approach include combination printing, the use
of focus, the manipulation of the negative, and the use of techniques
such as gum bichromate, which greatly lessened the detail and
produced a more artistic image.”
in fact conservatism would be the perception that would define
pictorialism, because of it’s unwillingness to explore the
new. One could say that today, the precise opposite has started
to happen. Where the practitioners of the “straight picture”
seems to be on the defensive and unwilling to explore the potential
use of all the new digital tools at our disposal.
arsenal of new options provided by the digital tools, open up
vistas, that are very different in many ways to the historical
notions of pictorialism.
me point some of these out, so that we can observe what is new
and different. I would start out by the single most important
aspect I have encountered in my personal explorations. The
level of control, down to the last pixel to be found within the
image. Such fine and precise slicing and dicing of the image,
would be unimaginable in the past.
this level of control provides us with, is the option to define
and combine styles that would have eluded most practitioners of
photography in the past. I am always hesitant to suggest that
this has never been done before, because as soon as something
like this is stated, someone will surely come up with an example
by someone who in fact did something like that a hundred years
problem is not so much if something has never been done before,
but if that something was produced in such a way, that the effort
might be repeated in more than just an isolated instance. Photography
became a world wide cultural phenomenon precisely because of it’s
widespread adaptation, and ease of use is certainly at the center
of such an experience.
being able to combine within a single image, various styles, where
the pictorial and the hyper real essence of straight photography,
might be merged into a seamless presentation, is hinged directly
to the possibility of control over every single pixel within the
am well aware that the defenders of the “straight image”
would somehow like to retain the aura of veracity about the photograph,
even though all the evidence from a factual point of view flies
directly in opposition to such an argument. The photograph is
merely a piece of evidence about something that took place in
front of the camera, not a slice of reality as some would like
we are well aware, such evidence is very much a subjective representation,
because that is all it can be. Even scientific pictures created
by robots sitting on top of remote rovers on a distant planet
need to be interpreted for their evidential representation. Who
would believe if you had a little figure appear staring into the
view finder of such a robot visiting a far of planet, that this
was indeed proof of life there?
getting back to life on this one, if Pictorialism was a photographic
term used to describe images that emphasized the artistic quality
of the photograph rather than the scene it depicted. The movement’s
primary aim was to bring photography into the fine art realm.
Also concerned with aesthetics and impact, Pictorialists sought
to produce images that were not solely about the objects in front
of the camera. Techniques used by these photographers to create
a more painterly effect included combination printing, focus,
and manipulation of the negative.
is different this time around is the emphasis on representing
the “photographic reality” of the scene depicted while
incorporating at the same time the “artistic quality”
of the painterly technique. I would imagine that
combining elements of the pictorial with traces of photographic
realism, might take us into a new territory worthy of exploration.
Is this neo pictorialism, or is it neo realism? or something yet
altogether different, either direction depends on the preference
of what is emphasized within the image. Let us have your opinion,
as the subject lends itself to a lot of very interesting debates.