P H Emerson: Poling the Marsh Hay, 1886

I'm reading Emerson's book on photography theory and practice at the mo, written around 1888, I think. Suddenly his pictures have a surprising immediacy. Although he's the early spokesperson for straight photography he emphasises the importance of working with an impression of a scene, not being tied to facts. The photograph is a translation of a scene and tone was his key interest. So he says things like "some of the best work done has been produced from negatives made purposely thin, which have at the same time been true in tone, and full in breadth." (p. 156) His practice was to shoot two plates, developing on location, repeatedly dunking the film in developer and using different sized brushes to work the tonal development locally. The first negative would then be scrutinised before processing the second based on what was revealed.



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