Issue: 19750101

Wednesday, January 1, 1975
1975
2-3
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19
Thursday, May 28, 2015
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Articles
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P. H. EMERSON
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APERTURE
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article
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P. H. EMERSON
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NANCY NEWHALL
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tableOfContents
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CONTENTS
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1
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13
PART ONE P. H. Emerson: His Life and the Fight for Photography as a Fine Art
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I. IMAGE IN THE GROUND GLASS
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Nancy Newhall
"Dr. Emerson? Wasn't he that irritating man —sort of a fanatic, really—who preceded Stieglitz?" Thus dimly, faceless, the almost forgotten image of Peter Henry Emerson comes down to us, ringed in the tongues of fire of his own rhetoric. "He the founder of contemporary photography?"
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14,15,16,17,18,19
PART ONE P. H. Emerson: His Life and the Fight for Photography as a Fine Art
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II. MR. ROBINSON’S TEA PARTY
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Nancy Newhall
In the 1880's, the walls of photographic exhibitions were crowded from floor to ceiling with huge frames often containing all of each exhibitor's entries. A few, of almost mural size, were precise topographical renditions of, say, the Matterhorn, the Alhambra, or some ruined priory—enormous, accurate bores, devoid of light, cloud or mood unless faked up by people in cowls and crucifixes, or lederhosen and alpenstocks, with a sky that happened elsewhere at some other time.
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19,20,21,22
PART ONE P. H. Emerson: His Life and the Fight for Photography as a Fine Art
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III. PEDRO ENRIQUE
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Nancy Newhall
Peter Henry Emerson was born May 3, 1856, in the white-columned Casa Grande of his father’s sugar plantation, La Palma, near the Encrucijada, Sagua-le-Grande, Cuba. His father, Henry Ezekiel, was only three years younger than his fourth cousin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, but the difference between them was as great as if the stepbrothers from whom they were descended had each taken half of the strong Emerson character—one the spiritual, the other the material.
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22,23,24
PART ONE P. H. Emerson: His Life and the Fight for Photography as a Fine Art
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IV. "EMERSON A.B.C.D.E.F.G."
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Nancy Newhall
What was he and what did he want to do? Naturalist, athlete, scholar, natural leader of men, writer: he would have made a magnificent military man. Why not Sandhurst? But that meant drill, orders to anywhere in any capacity, confinement to the military community.
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24,25,26,27
PART ONE P. H. Emerson: His Life and the Fight for Photography as a Fine Art
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V. ROME AND REFORMATION
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Nancy Newhall
It is doubtful if Emerson had ever given a serious thought to Art before. He had written satires on the Royal Academy and on Opera as seen by an "amateur super." As for Architecture, he had more or less always lived in pleasant houses and appears to have taken them for granted, along with monuments, palaces and cathedrals; he was more interested in how the peasants' cottages seem to have grown from the ground.
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27,28,29,30
PART ONE P. H. Emerson: His Life and the Fight for Photography as a Fine Art
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VI. THE GROUND GLASS: HIS COUNTRY, HIS THEME, HIS MEDIUM
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Nancy Newhall
Back in Cambridge, he plunged into medicine as if to purge himself of nightmares. Now and then he came up for air by going birding and botanizing with the ornithologist A. H. Evans. They began planning to do a book together, Evans to write about the birds and Emerson to photograph them during the next long vacation.
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30,31,32,33,34,35,36
PART ONE P. H. Emerson: His Life and the Fight for Photography as a Fine Art
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VII. "TRUTH TO NATURE"
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Nancy Newhall
In October, Emerson joined the Photographic Society of Great Britain. He exhibited "instantaneous photographs" and noted again the jumbled hanging—from floor to ceiling, cheek by jowl, several pictures to a frame. It was impossible to concentrate on any one image, unless very large and hung more or less on "the line," the average eye level.
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36
36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44
PART ONE P. H. Emerson: His Life and the Fight for Photography as a Fine Art
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VIII. "A REFORMER NEEDED"
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Nancy Newhall
Emerson was already embarked on his plans for photography. With Captain Abney, a distinguished photochemist who was later knighted and became Sir William de Wibersley Abney, and others of similar caliber, he was founding the Camera Club of London.
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44,45,46,47,48,49,50,51,52,53,54,55,56,57,58
PART ONE P. H. Emerson: His Life and the Fight for Photography as a Fine Art
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IX. ZEAL AND INDUSTRY
1. THE PEASANTS
2. THE AMPHIBIANS
3. WILD LIFE ON A TIDAL WATER
4. STIEGLITZ
5. PUBLICATIONS AND REVIEWS
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Nancy Newhall
Much of the preliminary work for Pictures of East Anglian Life had been done while he still lived in Southwold, still bound to achieving his M.B. But every possible hour he could spare, every day he could wipe clean of other obligations from dawn to sunset, he spent with his camera focused on the landscape or the peasants.
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58,59,60,61,62
PART ONE P. H. Emerson: His Life and the Fight for Photography as a Fine Art
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X. THE CURIOUS CRYSTAL
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Nancy Newhall
In the late 1880's, what you thought and felt about P. H. Emerson depended very much on who you were, and how young, whom you were talking to, and what had happened lately. From a distance he seemed rather like a fierce crystal just prized from its matrix, and not yet subject to the jewel-cutters.
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62,63,64,65,66,67,68,69,70,71,72,73,74
PART ONE P. H. Emerson: His Life and the Fight for Photography as a Fine Art
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XI. "A BOMBSHELL DROPPED AT A TEA PARTY"
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Nancy Newhall
On March 16, 1889, Emerson could write Stieglitz: "At last I am able to send you a copy of the book. It was published yesterday." He further discussed terms with the German publishers, proposed adding translations of the many favorable comments on his other works, and suggested Stieglitz write a Translator's Preface.
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74
74,75,76,77,78,79,80,81,82,83,84,85,86,87,88,89
PART ONE P. H. Emerson: His Life and the Fight for Photography as a Fine Art
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XII. "ICONOCLASTIC PEN"
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Nancy Newhall
To Emerson, things must have been going well, on the whole. The portfolio of gravures from East Anglian Life, "To the Student," was nearly completed. The second edition was ready, but would not be released until the "dull, dead season" was over; when it was, the reviewers followed Traill Taylor almost unanimously.
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89,90,91,92,93,94,95,96
PART ONE P. H. Emerson: His Life and the Fight for Photography as a Fine Art
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XIII. "THE DEATH OF NATURALISTIC PHOTOGRAPHY"
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Nancy Newhall
On May 31, 1890, there appeared in The Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry, "Photochemical Investigations and a New Method of Determination of the Sensitiveness of Photographic Plates" by two chemists, Ferdinand Hurter and Vero C. Driffield.
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96,97,98,99,100,101,102,103,104,105,106,107,108,109,110,111
PART ONE P. H. Emerson: His Life and the Fight for Photography as a Fine Art
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XIV. AFTERLIFE: 1. ACCLAIM
PROPOSITION I.
PROPOSITION II.
PROPOSITION III.
PROPOSITION IV.
PROPOSITION XVI.
PROPOSITION XVII.
A NATURALISTIC PHOTOGRAPH
DINNER TO DR. P. H. EMERSON
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Nancy Newhall
As if to show he still loved them, Emerson took his family off to Southport for a few weeks, and then, as if to sever all ties with his recent past, rented for six months Chancery House, Beaumaris, on the Isle of Angesby, near Colwyn Bay, North Wales.
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111,112,113,114,115,116,117,118,119,120,121,122,123,124,125,126,127,128,129,130,131,132,133,134,135,136,137,138
PART ONE P. H. Emerson: His Life and the Fight for Photography as a Fine Art
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AFTERLIFE 2. OBLIVION AND THE STRUMPET
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Nancy Newhall
But the "bubbles" Emerson had derided did not vanish into thin air. Instead, the airitself became full of "splodges,""gumplasters" and every fake the would-be imitators of painters and etchers could think up. And the bubbles proved merely the first ripples of a tidal wave of "gum" and "oil" that lasted nearly a decade.
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139,140,141,142,143,144,145,146,147,148,149,150,151
PART TWO P. H. Emerson: His photographs accompanied by excerpts from his albums and Naturalistic Photography
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The Character of the Country
THE SCIENTISTS
THE ARTIST
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Nancy Newhall
...in all their walks nature is full of interest to them; they find wisdom in a pond, they revel in a marsh, or they travel to a far country for the sake of rare birds’ eggs, or spend days and nights in the laboratories to solve new chemical problems, or organize expeditions to study unusual phenomena of the heavenly bodies.
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152,153,154,155,156,157,158,159,160,161,162,163,164,165,166,167,168,169,170,171,172,173,174,175,176,177,178,179,180,181,182,183,184,185
PART TWO P. H. Emerson: His photographs accompanied by excerpts from his albums and Naturalistic Photography
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Fisherfolk and Amphibians
THE MONSTER EEL
BREYDON SMELTERS
MATERIA MEDICA
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Nancy Newhall
Now in Norfolk and Suffolk the very peasantry are imbued with a devotion to the seafaring life, and hence the great yearly exodus of the peasantry as "Half-and-halfers." As this love of adventure is not satisfied by the short cruises in the smacks, we often find that, after a few voyages, these sailors will go on a foreign-bound vessel, and sail for the Spanish Main, or some other "furrin part."
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186,187,188,189,190,191,192,193,194,195,196,197,198,199,200,201,202,203,204,205,206,207,208,209
PART TWO P. H. Emerson: His photographs accompanied by excerpts from his albums and Naturalistic Photography
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Peasants and Harvests
A STIFF PULL - THE CRITICS
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Nancy Newhall
The wild winds and chill days of October have killed the fen flowers. No longer blooms the yellow-iris or the meadow-sweet, no scent is wafted from the marsh-myrtle or sweet-sedge, but beauty, sublime beauty, still reigns. To the left stretch masses of golden-ochred rush, to the right the rich greens of the marshes, and throughout winds the river, a vein of the deepest cobalt, while overhead roll masses of snow-white cumuli flying before the wild west wind. Along the marsh wall comes a group of labourers returning from their short day's work.
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210,211,212,213,214,215,216,217,218,219,220,221
PART TWO P. H. Emerson: His photographs accompanied by excerpts from his albums and Naturalistic Photography
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The Hunters
WILD-FOWLING
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Nancy Newhall
We are going out gunning. Dick often goes and brings home golden plover, curlew, redshanks, and sometimes a mallard for our larder; but fowls are still scarce, so that the professional gunners do not fare better then we. I stick to my rifle; I never did and never shall care for a shot-gun.
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222,223,224,225,226,227,228,229,230,231
PART TWO P. H. Emerson: His photographs accompanied by excerpts from his albums and Naturalistic Photography
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Great Yarmouth
OLD NORWICH
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Nancy Newhall
An evening in June, on Breydon flats at low water. The setting sun gleams like burnished gold on the glass windows of our houseboat lying anchored on one of the opalescent streams that thread this moist fairyland of green sea weed and pinkish mud ... the channel winding through forests of shipping and quays bordering the sea-stained town that rises from a tongue of sand stretching between the river and the ocean.
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232,233,234,235,236,237,238,239,240,241,242,243,244,245
PART TWO P. H. Emerson: His photographs accompanied by excerpts from his albums and Naturalistic Photography
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Winter
FROST
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Nancy Newhall
Snowy weather always makes me as lively as new wine. We sat smoking our pipes, when a sudden hail storm poured down upon us, playing pretty music on the roof; then followed snow, with north-easterly squalls. In half an hour the marshes were white, the landscape hushed, and the river running a silver thread through the glittering snow carpet—for the moon had risen, discovering flocks of snipe, field-fares, starlings and peewits, feeding greedily in the newly fallen snow...I went for a two hours' walk in the moonlit snowy landscape, for such a scene is dear to me beyond expression.
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246,247,248,249,250,251,252,253,254,255
PART TWO P. H. Emerson: His photographs accompanied by excerpts from his albums and Naturalistic Photography
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Experiences
VOICES OF THE NIGHT
SAILING ON THE YARE—A MISTY NIGHT
BIRDS' SLEEP
SOUNDS IN FOG
THE GALE
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Nancy Newhall
As you wander on the lush marshland on a still summer night beneath the starlit sky, you will hear all around you the voices of the night—singing birds. The canary-like warbler babbles in joyous song from yon sallow islet in antiphone to the sweeter-voiced and more precise reed-warbler, who makes the reed-bed ring with his song; suddenly, close by you, sounds the mysterious clicking of the grasshopper warbler, and whilst you are listening, wondering at the strange song, a nighthawk flutters by the reed-bed shrieking, and startling a water-rail, that begins to whistle softly, "whiÖ, whiÖ."
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256,257,258,259
PART TWO P. H. Emerson: His photographs accompanied by excerpts from his albums and Naturalistic Photography
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Spring
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Nancy Newhall
The love of Nature is strong in them. As children they watch their favorite birds for hours, mimic their songs, and observe their habits. They gather wild flowers, and take them home; nearly all the cottage windows, too, are decorated with flowering plants, and in the smallest garden a few flowers are carefully tended.
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260,261,262
PART TWO P. H. Emerson: His photographs accompanied by excerpts from his albums and Naturalistic Photography
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CHRONOLOGY
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1856 Born May 13 on father's sugar plantation, La Palma, Cuba. Father American, mother English. Christened Pedro Enrique. Proved when very young to be born naturalist, as well as athlete. 1864 Due to father's ill health, moved to Wilmington, Delaware.
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262,263,264,265
PART TWO P. H. Emerson: His photographs accompanied by excerpts from his albums and Naturalistic Photography
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BIBLIOGRAPHY
ARTICLES BY P. H. EMERSON
GRAVURES PUBLISHED SEPARATELY BY P. H. EMERSON
CORRESPONDENCE
ARTICLES ON P.H. EMERSON
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BOOKS BY P. H. EMERSON Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1886. Co-author: T. F. Goodall. Illustrated with 40 platinotypes by P. H. Emerson. Limited to 100 deluxe and 750 ordinary copies. Review: The Amateur Photographer, March 25, 1887, p. 145 (unsigned).
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266
PART TWO P. H. Emerson: His photographs accompanied by excerpts from his albums and Naturalistic Photography
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Acknowledgments
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First of all, as indicated by the Dedication, to Beaumont Newhall, instantly answering from his files and library any question of name, fact or date this biography turned up. To Diana Edkins, who did much research for me at Yale and in New York, Rochester and Washington; her xeroxes and copies were invaluable.
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advertisement
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267
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Advertisement
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268
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Back Cover
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P. H. Emerson
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