Emeka Okerere Rough Notes

Nigeria  website

Much more voyeuristic and less engaged than eg Michael Tsegaye. Performance photography,

Artist’s statement

Emeka Okereke born in 1980 is a Nigerian photographer who lives and works between Africa and Europe, moving from one to the other on a frequent basis. He came in contact with photography in 2001. He is a member of Depth of Field (DOF) collective, a group made up of six Nigerian photographers.

Presently, his works oscillate between diverse mediums. He uses photography, poetry, video and collaborative projects to address issues pertinent to his convictions. His works deal mainly with the questions of co-existence (beyond the limitations of predefined spaces), otherness and self-discovery. Often times they are subtle references to the socio-political issues of our times.

Another aspect of his practise lies in project organising which artistic interventions to promote exchanges cutting across indigenous and international platforms.

To this effect he organized the first ever photographic exchange projects between a school in France and one in Nigeria involving the Fine Art School of Paris and Yaba College of Arts and Technology Lagos. He is the Founder and Artistic Director of “Invisible Borders Trans-African Photography Project” an annual photographic project which assembles up to ten artists from Africa towards a roadtrip across Africa. There has been three editions of the project since 2009. Through Emeka Okereke Photography & Projects, he co-ordinates projects based on exchanges. The most recent of these projects include: Crossing Compasses, Lagos-Berlin Photo Exchange (May – June 2012) and Converging Visions: Nigeria – Netherlands Photo Exchange (June – September 2012)

In 2003, he won the Best Young Photographer award from the AFAA “Afrique en Création” in the 5thedition of the Bamako Photo Festival of photography. He has a Bachelors/Masters degree from the National Fine Art School of Paris and has exhibited in biennales and art festivals in different cities of the world, notably Lagos, Bamako, Cape Town, London, Berlin, Bayreuth, Frankfurt, Nurnberg, Brussels, Johannesburg, New York, Washington, Barcelona, Seville, Madrid, Paris, etc. He has also won several awards both in Nigeria and Internationally.

Invisible borders: Trans-African Photography Project

In 2009, I founded a project which every year unites up to ten African artists – photographers, writers, film makers and art historians on a road trip across Africa in a bid to reflect on exchanges across geographical borders. The core concept of this project is deeply rooted in the philosophy of movement and the ardent need to transcend inflicted limitations, by creating a crossbreed of realities which in turn offers the possibility of an extension of oneself beyond predefinitions.

There has been four editions of the road trip project with journeys to Mali, Senegal, Ethiopia and Gabon – always departing from Lagos Nigeria.  I have taken part and coordinated all  four editions, travelling across over 15 countries in the process.

During the trips, my works consisted of images, writings and films which looks at the intricate interactions between people and their spaces as experienced in the Africa of today – that friction between people and space in the quest for existence and co-existence. Furthermore, these works testify to an Africa at the brink of a turning point, that point where the new is struggling its way out of the old…and we are the signs as well as symptoms.

Sao Tome

It is a small Island with only 180,000 inhabitants. Everything man-made seems to be engulfed by the freshness of nature. There are more trees and forests than people and due to this, the people have a unique relationship with nature. Food is abundant because the land and plants are far from barren. All year round the trees produce all kinds of fruits. It is an Island of immense greens. Where only the thought of the concept of selling “bio” foods at acutely exorbitant prices becomes immediately ridiculous.

In the way of material acquisition, we do not see much. The cityscape is plagued with old dilapidated building of obviously Portuguese architecture. One could tell that much has not been done in terms of an independent advancement since its independence from Portugal in 1975.

The buildings are chipping away with every passage of time, with no scheme towards preservation talk more of restoration – they just stand there obtrusively like phantoms of a colonial past, creating a picture of people meandering through “beautiful” shacks and rubbles. But all of this is perfectly cocooned every inch of the way, by the freshness and liveliness of the many plants.

Rituals Lagos 2001-2003

This project was one of the first body of works produced at the earlier stages of my carrer. It explores the relationship between body and light. These works won the Afrique en Creation Price at the 2003 Bamako festival of Photography.

 

Michael Tsegaye Rough Notes

Michael Tsegaye, Ethiopia,  portfolio website

Born in 1975, Michael Tsegaye lives and works in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He received his diploma in painting from Addis Ababa University’s School of Fine Arts and Design in 2002, but soon gave up painting after he developed an allergy to oil paint. He subsequently found his real passion in photography and has made of it not only a profession, but a way of expressing a very particular voice.

“As a photographer I try as much as possible to escape being pigeonholed. I place myself among my peers (photographers and painters) across the world. While the spirit of my culture — its traditions in music, poetry and literature — informs my photography, my goal is that of any artist: to understand my life and standpoint in the 21st century, and express these through art.”

Future memories chronicles the urbanization of various neighborhoods in Addis Ababa.

Chasms of the soul  images are of gravestones in Ethiopia. When a person dies, his or her relatives place a photograph onto the tombstone and also inscribe a short history of the deceased. Thinking about the family’s photographs, and the idea of memorials and loss, I am struck by the personal sense of damage that these images—and the air that falls about them—evoke. As a result of time, those buried continue to experience a second death: the gradual deterioration of their entombed identity.

Ethiopia at work 10 years ago it was said that it took a full day for the average farmer to walk to the closest road. This prevented farmers from communicating with neighbours or engaging in independent small-scale market activity with each other. But in the Wollo region of Ethiopia, I came across a new market that was created by the building of a road that was still under construction. (2008)

Working Girls ll Commercial sex workers who live in Sebategna, a busy neighborhood in Addis Abeba close to the central bus station and Merkato (the largest open-air market in Africa). (2009) Black and White chiaroscuro.

North Road  Impressions of northern Ethiopia along the road that leads from Addis Abeba to Wello, Tigrai, Gonder, and Gojjam. (2008) Full saturated colour.

Ankober (2007) Misty atmospheric Black and White

Arenguade (2011) Semi-abstract patchwork images of Ethiopian fields taken from a plane. Colour.

Afar (2011) Erta Ale active volcano in Eastern Ethiopia Danakil depression. Black and white textures and rock formations.

Willie Doherty

Willie Doherty (born 1959) is an artist from Northern Ireland, who has mainly worked in photography and video.

His website images

Doherty was born in Derry, Northern Ireland, and from 1978 to 1981 studied at Ulster Polytechnic in Belfast. Many of his works deal with The Troubles. As a child he witnessed Bloody Sunday in Derry, and much of his work stems from the knowledge that many photos of the incident did not tell the whole truth. Some of his pieces take images from the media and adapt them to his own ends.

His works explore the multiple meanings that a single image can have. Some of Doherty’s earliest works are of maps and similar images accompanied by texts in a manner similar to the land art of Richard Long, except that here the text sometimes seems to contradict the image.

Doherty’s video pieces are often projected in a confined space, giving a sense of claustrophobia. The videos themselves sometimes create a mood that has been compared to film noir.

Doherty has acknowledged the importance of the Orchard Gallery in Derry as a venue where he could see modern art in his formative years. Doherty was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1994 and 2003, and has represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale in 1993, Great Britain at the São Paulo Art Biennial in 2003 and Northern Ireland at the 2007 Venice Biennale. He was a participant in dOCUMENTA

 

Jacob Aue Sobol

Jacob is a member of Magnum Photos. Yossi Milo Gallery in New York, Rita Castelotte Gallery in Madrid and RTR Gallery in Paris also represent him.

Jacob was born in Denmark, in 1976 and grew up in Brøndby Strand in the suburbs south of Copenhagen. He lived as an exchange student in Strathroy, Canada from 1994-95 and as a hunter and fisherman in Tiniteqilaaq, Greenland from 2000-2002. In Spring 2006 he moved to Tokyo, staying there 18 months before returning to Denmark in August 2008. He now lives and works in Copenhagen.

After studying at the European Film College, Jacob was admitted to Fatamorgana, the Danish School of Documentary and Art Photography in 1998. There he developed a unique, expressive style of black-and-white photography, which he has since refined and further developed.

Sabine: In the autumn of 1999 he went to live in the settlement Tiniteqilaaq on the East Coast of Greenland. Over the next three years he lived mainly in this township with his Greenlandic girlfriend Sabine and her family, living the life of a fisherman and hunter but also photographing. The resultant book Sabine was published in 2004 and the work was nominated for the 2005 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize.

Gomez-Brito family: In the summer of 2005 Jacob travelled with a film crew to Guatemala to make a documentary about a young Mayan girl’s first journey to the ocean. The following year he returned by himself to the mountains of Guatemala where he met the indigenous family Gomez-Brito. He stayed with them for a month to tell the story of their everyday life. The series won the First Prize Award, Daily Life Stories, World Press Photo 2006.

I, Tokyo: In 2006 he moved to Tokyo and during the next two years he created the images from his resent book I, Tokyo. The book was awarded the Leica European Publishers Award 2008 and published by Actes Sud (France), Apeiron (Greece), Dewi Lewis Publishing (Great Britain), Edition Braus (Germany), Lunwerg Editores (Spain), Peliti Associati (Italy) and Mets & Schilt (The Netherlands)

Bangkok Encounter:2008

2009 Home, Copenhagen.

Arrivals and Departures – a journey from Moscow to Beijing – in co-operation with Leica Camera.

The Zone System

to be further elaborated

Human vision is far superior to any camera in terms of the range of tones it can encompass within a single field of vision.

Early photographic emulsions were considerably more sensitive to blue light than to other colours on the spectrum of visible light. This meant that landscape photographs, particularly those made on clear days, had completely blown-out skies as the negatives were much denser in the skies than the foreground, resulting in loss of detail in the (positive) print.

Edward Muybridge made a library of clouds and skies that would be layered with a negative where the sky detail was absent in order to make photographs that were nearer to human perception.

The Zone System by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer (1889-1963) is a way to visualise how the tones visible in a scene can most effectively be rendered onto the photographic negative.

Adams (1981, 60) described the zone scale and its relationship to typical scene elements:

Zone Description
0 Pure black
I Near black, with slight tonality but no texture
II Textured black; the darkest part of the image in which slight detail is recorded
III Average dark materials and low values showing adequate texture
IV Average dark foliage, dark stone, or landscape shadows
V Middle gray: clear north sky; dark skin, average weathered wood
VI Average Caucasian skin; light stone; shadows on snow in sunlit landscapes
VII Very light skin; shadows in snow with acute side lighting
VIII Lightest tone with texture: textured snow
IX Slight tone without texture; glaring snow
X Pure white: light sources and specular reflections

 

Adams (1981, 52) distinguished among three different exposure scales for the negative:

  • The full range from black to white, represented by Zone 0 through Zone X.
  • The dynamic range comprising Zone I through Zone IX, which Adams considered to represent the darkest and lightest “useful” negative densities.
  • The textural range comprising Zone II through Zone VIII. This range of zones conveys a sense of texture and the recognition of substance.

Adams and Archer sought to refine and better manage some if the many variables that affected exposure, such as developer formulae and development times, so that the photographer could more strictly control the contrast and range of tones rendered.

In reality both film and digital sensors can render many more ‘zones’ than just eleven. But reminds us that when you point a light meter at an object it reads it as mid grey (zone 5). Therefore the photographer has to decide where in the scene they wish Zone V to be in order to control exposure properly.

In colour photography this also needs to be adjusted to allow for the fact that different colours correspond to different tones – yellows are better slightly over-exposed while reds and blues under-exposed.

Exercise 1.8 The Zone System in Practice

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto

website

Google images

from Wikipedia:

Sugimoto has spoken of his work as an expression of ‘time exposed’, or photographs serving as a time capsule for a series of events in time. His work also focuses on transience of life, and the conflict between life and death. Sugimoto is also deeply influenced by the writings and works of Marcel Duchamp, as well as the Dadaist and Surrealist movements as a whole. He has also expressed a great deal of interest in late 20th century modern architecture.

His use of an 8×10 large-format camera and extremely long exposures have given Sugimoto a reputation as a photographer of the highest technical ability. He is equally acclaimed for the conceptual and philosophical aspects of his work.

Exerpts from his description of selected works from his website:

Joe:  Like a work of architecture, this sculpture has to be experienced by walking around and through it… Joe is different according to the time of the day, the season, and the viewer’s position. It is in the visitor’s memory that the sculpture “takes shape” in the most complete way…Using a photographic technique involving areas of extremely soft light and blurred darkness, he sculpted views that seem like aspects of visual memory: the arts of photography and sculpture overlap and memories of the two-and the three-dimensional mix.

Revolution: For a long time it was my job to stand on cliffs and gaze at the sea, the horizon where it touches the sky. The horizon is not a straight line, but a segment of a great arc. One day, standing atop a lone island peak in a remote sea, the horizon encompassing my entire field of vision, for a moment I was floating in the centre of a vast basin. But then, as I viewed the horizon encircle me, I had a distinct sensation of the earth as a watery globe, a clear vision of the horizon not as an endless expanse but the edge of an oceanic sphere…There remains… a great divide between comprehending (i.e.explaining) the world and being able to explain what we ourselves are. And even then, what we can explain of the world is far less than what we cannot ― though people tend be more attracted by the unexplained. In all this, I somehow feel we are nearing an era when religion and art will once again cast doubts upon science, or else an era when things better seen through to a scientific conclusion will bow to religious judgement.

Seascapes:  Water and air. So very commonplace are these substances, they hardly attract attention―and yet they vouchsafe our very existence…Let’s just say that there happened to be a planet with water and air in our solar system, and moreover at precisely the right distance from the sun for the temperatures required to coax forth life. While hardly inconceivable that at least one such planet should exist in the vast reaches of universe, we search in vain for another similar example. Mystery of mysteries, water and air are right there before us in the sea. Every time I view the sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home; I embark on a voyage of seeing.

Lightning sheets: The idea of observing the effects of electrical discharges on photographic dry plates reflects my desire to re-create the major discoveries of these scientific pioneers in the darkroom and verify them with my own eyes.

Architecture: I decided to trace the beginnings of our age via architecture. Pushing my old large-format camera’s focal length out to twice-infinity―with no stops on the bellows rail, the view through the lens was an utter blur―I discovered that superlative architecture survives, however dissolved, the onslaught of blurred photography. Thus I began erosion-testing architecture for durability, completely melting away many of the buildings in the process.

Chamber of Horrors: People in olden times were apparently less fearful and grievous of death than we are today. To some it was even an honor to be chosen by the gods as a sacrificial victim, a liberation from the sufferings and strife of this life…Must we moderns be so sheltered from death?

Beginnings of Photography

(edited from Wikipedia various)

The word “photography” was created from the Greek roots φωτός (phōtos), genitive of φῶς (phōs), “light” and γραφή (graphé) “representation by means of lines” or “drawing”, together meaning “drawing with light”.

Wikipedia links:  History of photography History of the camera

Several people may have coined the same new term from these roots independently. Hercules Florence, a French painter and inventor living in Campinas, Brazil, used the French form of the word, photographie, in private notes which a Brazilian photography historian believes were written in 1834. Johann von Maedler, a Berlin astronomer, is credited in a 1932 German history of photography as having used it in an article published on 25 February 1839 in the German newspaper Vossische Zeitung. Both of these claims are now widely reported but apparently neither has ever been independently confirmed as beyond reasonable doubt.

Credit has traditionally been given to Sir John Herschel both for coining the word and for introducing it to the public. His uses of it in private correspondence prior to 25 February 1839 and at his Royal Society lecture on the subject in London on 14 March 1839 have long been amply documented and accepted as settled facts.

Precursor technologies

Photography is the result of combining several technical discoveries.

Pinhole camera or camera obscura: The camera obscura literally means “dark chamber” in Latin. It is a box with a hole in it which allows light to go through and create an image onto the piece of paper. The discovery of the camera obscura that provides an image of a scene dates back to ancient China.  Chinese philosopher Mo Di and Greek mathematicians Aristotle and Euclid described a pinhole camera in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE. In the 6th century CE, Byzantine mathematician Anthemius of Tralles used a type of camera obscura in his experiments, Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) (965–1040) studied the camera obscura and pinhole camera. Renaissance painters used the camera obscura which, in fact, gives the optical rendering in color that dominates Western Art. Leonardo da Vinci mentions natural cameras obscura that are formed by dark caves on the edge of a sunlit valley. A hole in the cave wall will act as a pinhole camera and project a laterally reversed, upside down image on a piece of paper.

Methods of reproducing and fixing the image: Silver Nitrate and Silver Chloride: Albertus Magnus (1193–1280) discovered silver nitrate,[12] and Georg Fabricius (1516–71) discovered silver chloride. Techniques described in the Book of Optics are capable of producing primitive photographs using medieval materials. Daniele Barbaro described a diaphragm in 1566. Wilhelm Homberg described how light darkened some chemicals (photochemical effect) in 1694. The fiction book Giphantie, published in 1760, by French author Tiphaigne de la Roche, described what can be interpreted as photography.

The first success of reproducing images without a camera occurred when Thomas Wedgwood, from the famous family of potters, obtained copies of paintings on leather using silver salts. Since he had no way of permanently fixing those reproductions (stabilizing the image by washing out the non-exposed silver salts), they would turn completely black in the light and thus had to be kept in a dark room for viewing.

First camera photography (1820s)

Photography as a usable process dates to the 1820s with the discovery of chemical photography. The first permanent photoetching was an image produced in 1822 by the French inventor Nicéphore Niépce, but it was destroyed in a later attempt to make prints from it. Niépce was successful again in 1825. He made the View from the Window at Le Gras, the earliest surviving photograph from nature (i.e., of the image of a real-world scene, as formed in a camera obscura by alens), in 1826 or 1827.

Earliest known surviving heliographic engraving, 1825, printed from a metal plate made by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce with his “heliographic process”. The plate was exposed under an ordinary engraving and copied it by photographic means. This was a step towards the first permanent photograph from nature taken with a camera obscura, in 1826.

Because Niépce’s camera photographs required an extremely long exposure (at least eight hours and probably several days), he sought to greatly improve his bitumen process or replace it with one that was more practical. Working in partnership with Louis Daguerre, he discovered a somewhat more sensitive process that produced visually superior results, but it still required a few hours of exposure in the camera. Niépce died in 1833 and Daguerre then redirected the experiments toward the light-sensitive silver halides, which Niépce had abandoned many years earlier because of his inability to make the images he captured with them light-fast and permanent. Daguerre’s efforts culminated in what would later be named the daguerreotype process, the essential elements of which were in place in 1837. The required exposure time was measured in minutes instead of hours. Daguerre took the earliest confirmed photograph of a person in 1838 while capturing a view of a Paris street: unlike the other pedestrian and horse-drawn traffic on the busy boulevard, which appears deserted, one man having his boots polished stood sufficiently still throughout the approximately ten-minute-long exposure to be visible. Eventually, France agreed to pay Daguerre a pension for his process in exchange for the right to present his invention to the world as the gift of France, which occurred on 19 August 1839.

A latticed window inLacock Abbey, England, photographed by William Fox Talbot in 1835. Shown here in positive form, this may be the oldest extant photographic negative made in a camera.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, Hercules Florence had already created his own process in 1832, naming it Photographie, and an English inventor, William Fox Talbot, had created another method of making a reasonably light-fast silver process image but had kept his work secret. After reading about Daguerre’s invention in January 1839, Talbot published his method and set about improving on it. At first, like other pre-daguerreotype processes, Talbot’s paper-based photography typically required hours-long exposures in the camera, but in 1840 he created the calotype process, with exposures comparable to the daguerreotype. In both its original and calotype forms, Talbot’s process, unlike Daguerre’s, created a translucent negative which could be used to print multiple positive copies, the basis of most chemical photography up to the present day. Daguerreotypes could only be replicated by rephotographing them with a camera.[21] Talbot’s famous tiny paper negative of the Oriel window in Lacock Abbey, one of a number of camera photographs he made in the summer of 1835, may be the oldest camera negative in existence.[22][23]

John Herschel made many contributions to the new field. He invented the cyanotype process, later familiar as the “blueprint”. He was the first to use the terms “photography”, “negative” and “positive”. He had discovered in 1819 that sodium thiosulphate was a solvent of silver halides, and in 1839 he informed Talbot (and, indirectly, Daguerre) that it could be used to “fix” silver-halide-based photographs and make them completely light-fast. He made the first glass negative in late 1839.

In the March 1851 issue of The Chemist, Frederick Scott Archer published his wet plate collodion process. It became the most widely used photographic medium until the gelatin dry plate, introduced in the 1870s, eventually replaced it. There are three subsets to the collodion process; the Ambrotype (a positive image on glass), the Ferrotype or Tintype (a positive image on metal) and the glass negative, which was used to make positive prints on albumen or salted paper.

Many advances in photographic glass plates and printing were made during the rest of the 19th century. In 1884, George Eastman invented an early type of film to replace photographic plates, leading to the technology used by film cameras today.

In 1891, Gabriel Lippmann introduced a process for making natural-color photographs based on the optical phenomenon of the interference of light waves. His scientifically elegant and important but ultimately impractical invention earned him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1908.

Peter Henry Emerson

As I stood admiring just before sunrise, the reed-tops bending under their beautiful crystal heads, rooks came flying from a wood near by, and a vast flock of peewits darkened the sky. As the yellow sun arose in frosty splendour mists began to rise on the river, and there followed a brief spell of magic beauty ere the thickening mists began to bury everything as they blew in fitful gusts from the river. in On English Lagoons (1893)

Do not put off doing a coveted picture until another year, for next year the scene will look very different. You will never be able twice to get exactly the same thing.  1889

 

 Blackshore, River Blythe, Suffolkfrom Emerson’s illustrated book ‘Pictures of East Anglian Life’, 1888

 

 

 

“At Plough, The End of the Furrow”, from Emerson’s photographic album ‘Pictures From Life in Field And Fen,’, 1887

 

 

 

 

Confessions from Emerson’s book ‘Pictures From Life in Field And Fen’, 1887

 

 

 

Peter Henry Emerson (13 May 1856 – 12 May 1936) was a British writer and photographer. Emerson was intelligent, well-educated and wealthy with a facility for clearly articulating his many strongly held opinions. His photographs are early examples of promoting photography as an art form. He is known for taking photographs that displayed natural settings and for his disputes with the photographic establishment about the purpose and meaning of photography.

Life

Emerson was born on La Palma Estate, a sugar plantation near Encrucijada, Cuba[1] belonging to his American father, Henry Ezekiel Emerson and British mother, Jane, née Harris Billing. He was a distant relative of Samuel Morseand Ralph Waldo Emerson. He spent his early years in Cuba on his father’s estate.

During the American Civil War he spent some time at Wilmington, Delaware, but moved to England in 1869, after the death of his father.

He was schooled at Cranleigh School where he was a noted scholar and athlete. He subsequently attended King’s College London, before switching to Clare College, Cambridge in 1879 where he earned his medical degree in 1885.

In 1881 he married Miss Edith Amy Ainsworth and wrote his first book while on his honeymoon.The couple eventually had five children.

He bought his first camera in 1881 or 1882 to be used as a tool on bird-watching trips with his friend, the ornithologist A. T. Evans. In 1885 he was involved in the formation of the Camera Club of London, and the following year he was elected to the Council of the Photographic Society and abandoned his career as a surgeon to become a photographer and writer. As well as his particular attraction to nature he was also interested in billiards, rowing and meteorology.

After the publication of Marsh Leaves in 1895, generally considered to be his best work, Emerson published no further photographs, though he continued writing and publishing books, both works of fiction and on such varied subjects as genealogy and billiards. In 1924, he started writing a history of artistic photography and completed the manuscript just before his death in Falmouth, Cornwall on 12 May 1936.

In 1979 he was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame.

Photography as art

Emerson’s passionate belief was that photography was an art and not a mechanical reproduction. In 1889 he published a controversial and influential book Naturalistic Photography for Students of the Art, in which he explained his philosophy of art and straightforward photography. The book was described by one writer as “the bombshell dropped at the tea party” because of the case it made that truthful and realistic photographs would replace contrived photography. This was a direct attack on the popular tradition of combining many photographs to produce one image that had been pioneered by O. G. Reijlander and Henry Peach Robinson in the 1850s. Emerson denounced this technique as false and claimed that photography should be seen as a genre of its own, not one that seeks to imitate other art forms. All Emerson’s own pictures were taken in a single shot and without retouching, which was another form of manipulation that he strongly disagreed with, calling it “the process by which a good, bad, or indifferent photograph is converted into a bad drawing or painting”.

Emerson also believed that the photograph should be a true representation of that which the eye saw. He vehemently pursued this argument about the nature of seeing and its representation in photography, to the discomfort of the photographic establishment.

Initially influenced by naturalistic French painting, he argued for similarly “naturalistic” photography and took photographs in sharp focus to record country life as clearly as possible. His first album of photographs, published in 1886, was entitled Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads, and it consisted of 40 platinum prints that were informed by these ideas. See You Tube video of the photos

Before long, however, he became dissatisfied with rendering everything in sharp focus, considering that the undiscriminating emphasis it gave to all objects was unlike the way the human eye saw the world. He then experimented with soft focus. Following contemporary optical theories, he produced photographs with one area of sharp focus while the remainder was unsharp. But he was unhappy with the results that this gave too, experiencing difficulty with accurately recreating the depth and atmosphere which he saw as necessary to capture nature with precision.

Despite his misgivings, he took many photographs of landscapes and rural life in the East Anglian fenlands and published seven further books of his photography through the next ten years. In the last two of these volumes, On English Lagoons (1893) and Marsh Leaves (1895), Emerson printed the photographs himself using photogravure, after having bad experiences with commercial printers.

His main photography books are:

In the end Emerson found that his defence of photography as art failed, and he had to allow that photography was probably a form of mechanical reproduction. The pictures the Robinson school produced may have been “mechanical”, but Emerson’s may still be considered artistic, since they were not faithful reproductions of a scene but rather having depth as a result of his one-plane-sharp theory. When he lost the argument over the artistic nature of photography, Emerson did not publicise his photographic work but still continued to take photographs.