"The value of a picture is not proportionate to the trouble and expense it costs to obtain it, but to the poetry that it contains." - P H Emerson.
Poetry in Photography brings together a collection of writings - and stunning images - from “one of the most virulent polemicists in the history of photography”, P H Emerson (1856-1936), whose writing was compared at the time to “dropping a bombshell at a tea party”. Emerson argued against the fine art-based academism of photography of the period, and in favour photography as a medium in its own right, whose distinctive characteristics should be adhered to if it was to attain its full artistic potential. His writings mark the beginning of the transition into modernism and are recognised as ranking alongside those of Roland Barthes, John Szarkowski and John Berger as the precursors to contemporary thinking on photography.
For almost 200 years, the work – and the writings – of pioneering photographers have transformed the way we see the world, and each other. Their ideas have inspired heated debate and dissent. And their images have helped form those we see all around us today. Our Writings on Photography titles bring you the thinking of these radicals and visionaries in their own words.
Emerson’s trenchant writing, however, is in sharp contrast to the gentle, atmospheric images of his pioneering photobooks such as Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads and, what many consider his masterpiece, Marsh Leaves (1895), "one of the most beautiful books about isolation and solitude, perhaps death, ever made". He is now recognised as one of the nineteenth century’s most important photographers and bookmakers. A selection of his images is reproduced with the texts in the book.