A Pictorial Aesthetic


November 20, 2009 - January 2, 2010

The Pictorial Aesthetic: Selections from the Collection of the Photographic Society of America  highlighted a broad range of imagery produced by the medium's earliest recognized artists. A variety of photographic print processes were represented including albumen, gum bichromate, platinum and metalchrome. 

The Photographic Society of America (PSA) was founded in 1934 to promote the art and science of photography. It’s collection of over 4000 photographic prints, maintained in Oklahoma City at the international headquarters of the PSA, encompasses every process utilized by photographers since the invention of the medium and includes some of the rarest examples of photographic printmaking found anywhere. While the works in the collection cover a broad range of subjects, the dominant style represented is Pictorialism, an ‘aesthetic approach’ that placed more value on the artistic concerns of the photographer than the choice of subject. The movement was born in the mid-nineteenth century when photographers, disenchanted with the idea that photography held no artistic appeal, began to search for ways to make their work resemble other mediums like oil painting or charcoal drawing. Applying new techniques for altering their prints such as combining multiple negatives and utilizing alternative processes like gum bichromate or bromoil, they believed the effects had greater emotional impact and related to high art. Pictorialist works emphasized atmosphere in landscapes and a more defined viewpoint for portraiture that often drew upon narrative subject matter