Henry Peach Robinson : The King Of Photographic Picture Making

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Henry Peach Robinson Henry Peach Robinson, born on July 9th, 1830, was a British photographer and prominent author on photography. Known as “the King of Photographic Picture Making,” he began his life’s work as a painter but would become one of the most influential photographers of the late 19th century. He was a prolific advocate for photography as an art form and is well known for his role in “pictorialism,” which, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, is “an approach to photography that emphasizes beauty of subject matter, tonality, and composition rather than the documentation of reality.” After finishing school at the age of 13, Robinson began an apprenticeship for a bookseller/ printer. During this time he studied art and even…show more content…
Robinson was one of the first photographers to setup a staged photo-shoot. He was known to create outdoor scenes in the studio where he could control the elements as well as the model. His preferred models were members of high society or paid actors rather than the unsophisticated peasants he was depicting because he felt that the actual peasants were “dull and awkward” and didn’t fit in his picture perfect settings. He would pose his models to create his ideal scene within the genre. Since Robinson’s goal was to create stills that resembled paintings, he took no issue with combining elements that were “real” with those that were staged. The effect he was trying to accomplish was known as the “pictorial effect,” a subject that he delves into deeply in his book, Pictorial Effect in Photography: Being Hints on Composition and Chiaroscuro for Photographers, published in 1869. In his book, Robinson states, “any dodge, trick and conjuration of any kind is open to the photographer’s use. It is his imperative duty to avoid the mean, the base and the ugly, and to aim to elevate his subject… and to correct the unpicturesque. a great deal can be done and very beautiful pictures made, by a mixture of the real and the artificial in a picture.” As a pictorialist, Robinson was of the belief that the photograph should conjure feeling or a particular mood. “ ‘Art Photography’ needed to emulate the paintings of everyday life in such a way to etch it in time and remove
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