Some of my images feature a pictorialist style post processing technique. Just as a painter might add strokes of colour, light or texture to their composition, selective layering and blending can achieve similar results for the art photographer. My version of the process involves blending the original subject photograph with multiple additional images which among other things might include stone, glass, metal, water, paint, line art, etc.
In more general terms pictorialism is described as a style of photography that emphasizes a creative approach to subject matter, tonality, and composition rather than the more traditional documentary approach. Pictorialism has also been described as a methodology in which the photographer has somehow manipulated what would otherwise be a straightforward photograph as a means of “creating” an image rather than “recording” it.
First popularized in the 1860s it aimed to approach the camera and lens as a tool more like the artist would use a paintbrush and canvas. In the eye of the pictorialist, the end result was more about artistic expression than it was about capturing reality.
Pioneers of the movement included British photographers Henry Peach Robinson and Peter Henry Emerson, Luxembourgish photographer Edward Steichen and American photographer Alfred Stieglitz to name but a few. One thing they all appear to have had in common was the desire to find ways to separate photography as art form and to promote personal expression. Often inspired by impressionist painters, these early pictorialists “attempted to recreate atmospheric effects in nature through attention to focus and tonality”.
As modernism began to take hold, pictorialism started to wain in the late 1920s. Fortunately there has been a resurgence of interest in recent years and we are now beginning to see a whole new generation of photographic artists exploring this exciting style of photography.