A major current in the history of photography, pictorialism allowed the transition from 19th century naturalism to the modernism of the early 20th century.
When it was discovered in 1839, photography appeared as a miracle that gave the possibility to fix on a transportable medium an image reflecting, with an accuracy unparalleled until then, what only the eye could see. For nearly half a century, photography will remain confined to this role of indisputable witness of a prosaic reality.
Challenging this simple function of reproduction of the real, enlightened amateurs, artists and professionals gathered in Europe and the United States to explore the creative possibilities of this young media.
No longer prohibited from interpreting and transforming the image captured by the lens , the pictorialists will gradually impose the notion of art in photography thus allowing the birth of a means of aesthetic expression in its own right.
The negatives of the beginning of photography were carefully retouched before making positives, all identical. The pictorialists will do the opposite by printing, from the same negative, proofs often very different from each other, their aims being exclusively artistic and no more realistic.
This is how most of the creative work is done in the laboratory: complex chemical preparations, development of diverse papers, use of techniques and tools of painters, everything is good to go beyond the analytical coldness of the negative and to produce, by artistic means, an emotional and, therefore, synthetic vision.
In this, the pictorialists bring to the photographic image a new dimension: that of the dream, of fictional capacities that the creative interpretation of the author offers to the spectators. Compared to other forms of art, the possibility of projection and identification is all the more facilitated as the basis of the image comes undeniably from the real.
By their innumerable researches on the aesthetics of the print as well as their enthusiasm to communicate and to share their experience and their discoveries, the pictorialists are at the origin of general theories on composition and interpretation of images which will open the way to the photographic modernity of the twentieth century.
October 27 – December 1, 2018
Gallery 291 Paris
32, rue de la Gaîté