Highlights from the photograph collections

Peter Henry Emerson

Men in a rowing boat among water lilies
'Gathering Water-Lilies'.
Platinum print, 1886. From 'Life and
landscape on the Norfolk Broads' (London,
1889). [Library reference: Phot.med.34].

Peter Henry Emerson (1856-1936) was born in Cuba, but moved to England in 1869.

In the mid-1880s he went to live in in East Anglia. He began taking photographs there inspired both by the technical possibilities of photography and by the aesthetics of Impressionism.

Art photographs

His photography was a self-conscious attempt to produce 'art-photographs', and he favoured processes like photogravure and platinum (as in this example). These afforded the opportunity to manipulate the image by hand after exposure.

Emerson's portfolios

There is a large collection of Emerson's portfolios of prints and photographically illustrated books at the National Library of Scotland.

All were produced during an intensive 10-year period. At the end of it Emerson became disillusioned with art and photography, and withdrew into private life.


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