Die Jagd und
das unberührte Naturverständnis

Buch mit der schriftliche Abschlussarbeit über die Jagd
Die Jagd und das unberührte Naturverhständnis, 23.05.2016
«Schriftliche Abschlussarbeit − Vorkurs im Modulsystem», F+F Schule für Kunst und Design Zürich


In meiner fotografischen Arbeit habe ich die Jagd als Thema gewählt, um diese zu dokumentieren. Dabei beschäftigte ich mich nicht nur mit der Jagd als Thema selbst, sondern ich fragte mich auch, warum dieses Thema eine starke Faszination auf mich ausübt. Ich stellte mir vor, wie es wohl sei, selbst auf die Jagd zu gehen. Wie es sei, mit dem Gewehr durch die Natur zu pirschen und einem Wildtier auf der Lauer zu sein. Zu wissen, wo sich die Wildtiere in der Natur befinden, um wie ein Raubtier sich ihnen anzunähern und zu töten, damit man in der Wildnis leben kann. Zudem erzählte mir einmal ein Bekannter, dass man in einem bestimmten Gebiet in Norwegen schon als Kind fischen und jagen lernt. Da ich selbst eine halbe Norwegerin bin, aber in der Schweiz aufwuchs, regte dieser kulturelle Unterschied in meinem Kopf Bilder an von Menschen, fernab der Zivilisation, mit einer ursprünglichen, aber nicht mehr üblichen Lebensweise. Diese Vorstellung von einem ursprünglichen Leben wurde noch bestärkt, als ich während meinen Recherchen auf die Inuit-Indianer gestossen bin, die als Polarjäger in Kanada und Grönland unterwegs sind, sowie die Tschuktschen, die im Nordosten Sibiriens in der Tundra leben. Beide indigenen Völker leben in einer unwirklichen Eislandschaft und sind Rentier-Nomaden oder aktive Jäger von Seerobben, die sie zum Leben brauchen. „Die Jagd und
das unberührte Naturverständnis“

Naturalistic Photography:
The Theory and Practice of
Peter Henry Emerson

Naturalistic Photography - Peter Henry Emerson
Naturalistic Photography: The Theory and Practice of Peter Henry Emerson , 1999
A dissertation submitted to Sotheby’s Institute in conformity with the requirements for the Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine and Decorative Art.


During the last quarter of the 19th century, the development of photography changed dramatically since it was first used in the 1840’s. The production, development and printing of film plates plus simpler cameras and consumer friendly service resulted in more people starting to take up photography as a leisure activity and the introduction of the ‘Kodak No1’camera in 1888 also helped photography to become more accessible. G.B. Shaw, for example, explains why he started to take up photography in 1898. “I always wanted to draw and paint…But I could not draw well enough…So when dry plates and push buttons [cameras] came on the market I bought a box camera and began pushing the button.” Leon Warnerke commented about this contemporary development, “The modern photographer does not like any complicated manipulations. He wants only to obtain a result [as far as] possible with the least possible trouble…” Both these quotes help to explain people’s attitudes towards the more and more popular hobby of photographing, an attitude which continued throughout the 20th century. However, Peter Henry Emerson stood in contrast with this ideology and advocated a photography that related to the arts and crafts, which he explained in his instructions of ‘Naturalistic Photography for the Students of the Art’, first published in 1889.

Emerson’s early life and career was by no means straightforward, it had a couple of twists and turns. Born on the 13th of May in 1856 in Cuba (still a Spanish colony at this time) Emerson was the oldest child of three. His father was an American who was in charge of several coffee and sugar plantations. After the health of his father declined (he died in 1867) Emerson’s family was forced to return to Wilmington in Delaware. And because of the Cuban war of independence in 1868 he could not return to Cuba for his education and so was sent to England to a public school in Surrey in 1869. Later Emerson started to study Natural Sciences at Clare College in Cambridge and took a degree in medicine in 1885. Emerson bought his first camera in 1882 and after having received photographic instruction from Ernest Griffith, Emerson soon abandoned his medical career. After a holiday in Southwold on the Suffolk coast in 1883, he met Arthur George Bell, a landscape painter, who introduced him to the landscape of the region and its artistic quality. Emerson was also introduced to the naturalistic painter Thomas Frederick Goodall who had the same passion for the this countryside as him, which lead to both men co-operating together to produce Emerson’s first illustrated book Life and Landscape of the Norfolk Broads published in 1886. From this point a new career started to establish itself, which then gave Emerson contacts with other photographers, for example both Alfred Stieglitz and Julia Margaret Cameron. Emerson brought out about 30 different book titles, some of them purely literary works, others with photographic illustrations by him intended for the art connoisseur, and others were critical and instructive works for photographers.

As a photographer Emerson lived mainly from his illustrated publications and made very rarely single editions of his prints. In his publications he predominantly used topics of rural life and peasants in the landscape of the Norfolk Broads, East Anglian and other coasts and lagoons in England. The pictorial subjects of these illustrations are harbour or river scenes, fishermen activities, or peasants working in the field with animals, or hunting scenes (fig.1 & 2 & 3). The text parts in these books are poetic descriptions of the landscape and people and are records of life in this rural area. In contrast to this, is his book Naturalistic Photography for Students of the Art, which contains argumentation towards his way of making photos and was published in three editions (1889, 1890 and 1899). Although all three texts are mainly identical, the 3rd edition was partly enlarged and rewritten due to new discoveries in photography, which influenced his arguments. The upshot of these scientific discoveries was that Emerson had to renounce the whole theory and had privately published his booklet The Death of Naturalistic Photography as early as 1890. However, Emerson also continued to take photographs of the Norfolk Broads and East Anglia, which indicates that the illustrated books were still in demand despite the debate about his controversial theory.

A debate grew up around Emerson’s publication, his principle critic being Henry Peach Robinson (1830-1901), who wrote: “While giving Dr. Emerson all credit for sincerity, we cannot help feeling that his system is pernicious, and tending to lead the amateur into slovenly ways, and into a habit of excusing bad photography by calling it good art.” Robinson was an influential photographer since the 1860’s. He used in his pictures a compositional additive process, which was quite similar to the Pre-Raphaelite artists Holman Hunt and Millais. This meant that Robinson assembled different recorded fragments, which were on different negatives, into a new composition (fig.4). Photographers such as him, who had followed in the tradition of Oscar Gustave Rejlander (1813-75) and used such a composite photography (fig.5), believed that photography should progress away from the ‘purist’ recording medium where no improvements were allowed. Robinson wrote, “Nature, having no inner consciousness, knows nothing about art. Nature takes life as it comes while true art takes the best of nature and improves upon it…” Robinson wanted to ‘correct the unpicturesque’ using any kind of trickery to improve the artistic quality of the picture. He would even mix real and artificial elements in a picture, to produce ‘High Art Photography’. Although Emerson stood in contrast to this kind of photography, because he saw them not to be ‘true to nature’ he seemed to agree that the photographer should not copy the facts of nature, but to interpret them in an artistic way. “The realist makes no analysis, he is satisfied with the motes and leaves out the sunbeam. He will, in so far as he is able, paint all the veins of the leaves as they really are, and not as they took as a whole…[but in the case of Emerson] …the Naturalist would endeavour to express the impression of [nature] as it appears to him…The Naturalist’s work we should call true to nature [but] realism belongs to the province of science.” This definition and distinction of realism and naturalism was the cornerstone for Emerson’s theory of ‘Naturalistic Photography’ where he not only gives an argumentation and practical advice in the use of lenses, focusing, exposure, development and printing methods to explain how to create his idea of artistic photographs. He also educates the student about art history (from the ancient Greek to contemporary art) with the focus on ‘Naturalism’, to back up his theory of what is good art and to train the eye of the photographer. Emerson claims that “Much time and expense would have been saved had the pioneers of photography had good art education…for without art training, the practice of photography came to be looked upon purely as a science, and the ideal work of the photographer was to produce an unnaturalistic…picture.”

The aim of this dissertation is to find out the relation ship of Emerson theory and practice by investigating the origin of Emerson’s theory and to compare this with Emerson’s photographic practice, especially with the use of four photographic elements, to achieve the final result of Naturalistic Photography.

„Naturalistic Photography:
The Theory and Practice of
Peter Henry Emerson“