on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Is Pictorialism a dirty word?

Be yourself and be the best you can be. Begin it now.

Andrew Sanderson

Andrew is a photographer and tutor with over 40 years’ experience, and an Ilford Photo Master Printer. He is a leading proponent not only of film and the darkroom, but of the single image, and – of course – the importance of the print. He is the author of three books: Night Photography: A Practical Manual; Home Photography: Inspiration on Your Doorstep; and Hand Colouring and Alternative Darkroom Processes. He has also self-published a small book on the technique of paper negative photography, available from Blurb. You can also follow him on Instagram


Is it a style of photography that you look down on? It is associated with a particular period, but we are still influenced by it. I would suggest that your photography follows some of the same principles if you break it down thoughtfully. What do you think of when the style of photography known as Pictorialism is mentioned? It is associated with what the f/64 group referred to as ‘the fuzzy wuzzies’, photography that employed the use of soft-focus optics and diffusion to impart an artistic look. The term is a derogatory one and refers to the tendency of many photographers of the time to create unsharp images in the mistaken belief that it by itself imparted artistic value.

The original intentions of pictorial photographers were to imitate the established arts of etching, charcoal drawing etc. This way, they assumed, photography would be accepted as a legitimate art. Much of the work from that period is still good enough to elicit gasps of awe from the viewer, even though cameras were crude and printing was laborious. Technologically we are capable of a much higher quality these days, but here is the interesting thing: Why is it that with the ease of use and the staggering quality of modern digital cameras, there are not millions of brilliant photographers?

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