mad in pursuit notebook


Fassbender bookPictorialist Photography: Adolf Fassbender

I enjoy listening to interviews with photographers* -- how they practice their art and what cool gear they use. The conversation often comes around to how much they manipulate and change their photos in the "darkroom" of Photoshop. Photojournalists and documentarians are limited: they can crop and sharpen. Others are vigorous manipulators. "It's your art. Make your own statement." These photographers don't really have a category for themselves (though narrowly, they may be wedding or glamor photographers).

My suggestion is that they resurrect the term "pictorialist."

On our shelves I discovered a big book of photos, printed as photogravures: Pictorial Artistry: The Dramatization of the Beautiful in Photography by Adolf Fassbender, FRPS (NY: B. Westermann Co, 1937). In his introduction Fassbender writes:

Pictorial photography is more than a fad or a style. It is the expression of what we see in terms of photography... improved by the wealth and skill of our imaginative and interpretive development. The camera and the lens, as such, are only the mechanical devices... the means to the beginning of Pictorialism in photography.[...]

The artist uses the mechanical light-sketch as a foundation and by technical manipulation he is able to recreate and rebalance the values of light and shade until by the very ingenuity of his appreciative treatment, an artistic creation results. The joy of this creative expression, so inspiring to the sincere worker in photography, is the enduring workth of Pictorial Photography.

[...] Each print is to me an individual creation... its inspiration, conception and artistic developmnet having but one objective... "THE DRAMATIZATION OF THE BEAUTIFUL."

Fassbender was creating art. And as such, felt no guilt over adding clouds to his skies and cleaning debris off the foreground.


*TWiT Photo, The Candid Frame, This Week in Photo

Jan 12, 2012