History of Photography

Introduction History of Photography (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

A World History of Photography (by Naomi Rosenblum)

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991 (by Hans-Michael Koetzle)

Photographers' Dictionary
(based on "20th Century Photography - Museum Ludwig Cologne")



Photographers' Dictionary

(based on "20th Century Photography-Museum Ludwig Cologne")




Robert Demachy


Demachy, a Frenchman, was a banker by profession, and an amateur artist, becoming a leading photographer in the 1890s. He was the founder of the Photo Club of Paris, a member of London's Linked Ring, and of the Photo-Secession.
An influential photographer of the time was Dr. P. Emerson, who fostered a more subjective approach to photography than hitherto. As a result, there was an emphasis on minimum detail and soft focus.
However, for some photographers this was as far as one should go; it was perfectly admissible to control one's photography at the camera stage, but one should not tamper with the photograph at the printing stage beyond employing very modest negative re-touching techniques.
his was not sufficient for other photographers, and Robert Demachy, together with other photographers such as George Davidson and Alfred Maskell began to experiment at the printing stage as well. A familiar phrase attributed to Demachy is "The end justifies the means", which sums up his approach to picture making.
His photographic work was quite diverse; he exhibited portraits, street scenes and figure studies, and wrote a a number of books and about a thousand articles on photography.
He is an interesting photographer to study because his work epitomises the controversy which existed in the world of photography at the turn of the century. Demachy had little time for the "straight print" photographers, especially if they presumed to call themselves artists. No straight print, he declared, with "its false values, its lack of accents, its equal delineation of things important and useless" could really be called art. "A straight print may be beautiful, and it may prove.. that its author is an artist; but it cannot be a work of art... A work of art must be a transcription, not a copy, of nature...This special quality.." (which makes it a work of art) "is given in the artist's way of expressing himself... If a man slavishly copies nature, no matter if it is with hand and pencil or through a photographic lens, he may be a supreme artist all the while, but that particular work of his cannot be called a work of art..."
However, perhaps to counter argument, he also made the observation that manipulation was not necessarily art: "Too many pictorialists will meddle with their prints in the fond belief that any alteration, however bungling, is the touchstone of art...."
In addition to deliberately using soft focus lenses to blur and soften the image, he also used printing processes which required manipulation. The final result was by no means pure photography, because the finished result in many of his pictures was achieved by using brushwork together with photography.
An example of this technique is his Figure Study from an Etched Negative, a gum print produced in 1906. One can readily see the long diagonal lines etched over the body greatly reducing photographic detail.
Among his favourite subjects was young ballet dancers, in a style very much reminiscent of Degas' work. He also made studies of people.
A powerful image is En Bretagne, which must be a composite from a number of negatives.


Prima Vera, 1896


Frederick Holland Day, 1900-1910


Behind the Scenes


Symbolist figure study, 1890-1899


Portrait of a Child, ca. 1900-1910, pigment print


Behind the Scenes,




Vitesse (Speed), 1903


Sea Calm, 1904


Puyo, Demachy, and de Singly with Model, ca. 1909


Pont Alexander, 1901


 Untitled, 1910


"Struggle" CW No. 5, 1904


"Street in Mentone" CW No. 5, 1904


"Severity" CW No. 5, 1904


Mont Saint-Michel




Femme au chapeau, 1902


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