(thanks to Chris Usher for alerting me to the great stuff with photography going on at the Phillips!)
Check out these two series of photo exhibits! Go out and support art this holiday season!
Photographic pictorialism, an international movement, a philosophy, and a style, developed toward the end of the 19th century. The introduction of the dry-plate process, in the late 1870s, and of the Kodak camera, in 1888, made taking photographs relatively easy, and photography became widely practiced. Pictorialist photographers set themselves apart from the ranks of new hobbyist photographers by demonstrating that photography was capable of far more than literal description of a subject. Through the efforts of pictorialist organizations, publications, and exhibitions, photography came to be recognized as an art form, and the idea of the print as a carefully hand-crafted, unique object equal to a painting gained acceptance.
The forerunners of pictorialism were early photographers like Henry Peach Robinson and Julia Margaret Cameron. Robinson found inspiration in genre painting; Cameron’s fuzzy portraits and allegories were inspired by literature. Like Robinson and Cameron, the pictorialists made photographs that were more like paintings and drawings than the work of commercial portraitists or hobbyists.
Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966), an American photographer who spent most of his life in London, was a key figure in the turn-of-the-century pictorialist movement. He is represented by 16 photographs in TruthBeauty: Pictorialism and the Photograph as Art, 1845-1945. A related display, Coburn and the Photographic Portfolio, showcases his innovative book illustrations, including the celebrated portfolios Men of Mark (1913), London (1909), and New York (1910), as well as H. G. Wells’s The Door in the Wall and Other Stories (1911), and The Novels and Tales of Henry James (1907-09).
Coburn began making photographs when he was eight. At seventeen, he exhibited with Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen at London’s Royal Photographic Society. Five years later, he joined Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession group, which promoted the idea of photography as a fine art, and beautifully crafted photographic prints as unique art objects. Coburn’s wide range of subject matter included poetic cityscapes and intimate portraits.