Pictorialism

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"The Black Bowl", by George Seeley, circa 1907. Published in Camera Work, No 20 (1907)

Pictorialism is the name given to an international style and aesthetic movement that dominated photography during the later 19th and early 20th centuries. There is no standard definition of the term, but in general it refers to a style in which the photographer has somehow manipulated what would otherwise be a straightforward photograph as a means of "creating" an image rather than simply recording it.

Quotes[edit]

  • The influx of thousands of new amateurs at the close of the nineteenth century and the accompanying expansion of amateur clubs, societies and organizations, produced great unrest among amateur writers and spokesmen. Between 1890 and 1910, manifestos, critiques, rebuttals and arguments dominated society meetings and filled the pages of photography journals. What were the proper goals of photographic practice? What should its standards be? The democratization of photography presented a challenge to previous notions about practice, decorum, aesthetics and appropriate subject matter. A deepening tension grew between an amateur establishment intent on promoting photography as a serious art form and the waves of newcomers who seemed to threaten that legitimization.
    • Griffin (1987, 122) as cited in: Jay Ruby (1999). The world of Francis Cooper. p. 75
  • …the strongest part of a picture is the sensation and the feeling which it creates, this being done through the agency of certain familiar objects more or less accurately depicted and represented with more or less completeness.
    The MOTIVE, then, in all pictorial work is to convey some thought or idea or sensation by means of a chosen subject.
  • Pictorialism is the thesis that mental images represent in the manner of pictures.
    • T. Horgan, ‎J. Tienson (2012), Connectionism and the Philosophy of Mind . p. 309
  • Pictorialism is the Fine Art of making and appreciating mainly decorative spacial (static) pictures possessing aesthetic qualities.
    • S.D. Jouhar. "Some thoughts on picturalism," in: Photographic Journal: Pictorial and general photography. 1948. p. 188
  • We are forced to the conclusion that pictorialism is the dominant urge of those photographers today who use the medium for their own and other people's pleasure.
    • The Photographic Journal, Vol. 93 (1953), p. 47
  • Here it's worth briefly noting, however, that pictorialism is only one of two major representationalist theories of vision and imagination (or mental imagery), the other being propositionalism.
    • Emily Troscianko (2014). Kafka’s Cognitive Realism, p. 40
  • Viewed from the vantage of the end of the twentieth century, pictorialism is an early attempt to construct a picture theory that argues that the conventions of picture-making apply to all pictorial forms regardless of the medium.
    • Jay Ruby (1999). The world of Francis Cooper : nineteenth-century Pennsylvania photographer. Chapter. 3. The Photographic Education and Practice of Francis Cooper. p. 75
  • Atmosphere is the medium through which we see all things. In order, therefore, to see them in their true value on a photograph, as we do in Nature, atmosphere must be there. Atmosphere softens all lines; it graduates the transition from light to shade; it is essential to the reproduction of the sense of distance. That dimness of outline which is characteristic for distant objects is due to atmosphere. Now, what atmosphere is to Nature, tone is to a picture.
    • Alfred Stieglitz "A Plea for Art Photography in America." Photographic Mosaics, Vol 28, 1892.
  • The very popularity of the medium and the ease with which the new technologies made photography accessible contributed to the rise of a pictorialist movement to counter a perception of photography as a purely mechanical medium practiced without skill. It was the goal of this progressive, or New School, movement to demonstrate the artistic possibilities of photography. Influenced by a number of other movements within the traditional arts, such as Impressionism and Symbolism, photographers in Europe and the United States arrived at a pictorialist aesthetic often characterized by soft focus, a massing of highlights and shadows, and highly manipulated printing techniques meant to demonstrate control by the photographer over his or her work and at times to mimic the appearance of traditional artistic media of painting and print-making.
    • Lynne Warren (2005). Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography, 3-Volume Set. p. 1230

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