The history of landscape photography
Early landscape photography used the same principles used in painting in order to create works of art. Prior to the 18th century, landscape was painted only as a backdrop for a principal subject. In the latter part of the century however, artists such as John Constable and William Turner have started romanticizing the environment, using it as a principal subject in paintings.
Photography was invented at a time when western cultures were exploring new lands. It was used as a medium for documenting the grandeur of the natural environment and usually included small details.
The first photographic movement was born a couple of years after Constable and Turner and was known as the “pictorial photography". Pictorial photographers believed that their field is more than just an objective, mechanical media. Photography was not just about the information contained by the images they produced, but rather, about the effect and the mood they translate.
At this time, technology for photography was still in its primitive stage and many photographers felt that their lens recorded too much detail. To address this, photographers started employing several techniques to soften their images. The main goal was to create an image which looked more like a painting or a drawing. Some of the most common techniques used included print manipulation as well and taking the images out of focus.
By 1889, Dr. Peter Henry Emerson started promoting “naturalism". He believed that photographers should stop emulating the techniques in painting and start treating photography as an independent art form. He believed people should strive to communicate something personal through their work. They should look at the environment for inspiration. In 1902, Alfred Stieglitz helped promote photography as an aesthetic medium. Through his exhibit entitled “Photo Secessionists", he featured nonconformist pictorial images of everyday objects taken with a hand held camera, hence the term “realism". The break from pictorial photography was initiated by a group called the F64. Some of its members included prominent photographers such as Edward Weston and Ansel Adams who produced images using the smallest apertures on large format cameras for maximum sharpness and detail.
Continue on to page 2 where you will learn about photography as a personal expression.