Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Favorite Photo: Fading Away (1858)

Fading Away: Henry Peach Robinson (1858) - From fō-tō-gră-fē

My favorite photo of today is again from the first era of photographic art, Pictorialism. It is from 1858 and depicts a girl dying from tuberculosis. Even more amazing is that it was composed of multiple negatives. It is the most famous photo of Henry Peach Robinson, and was actually a rather pioneering endeavor.

It wasn't the very first photo to chop together multiple negatives, but it may as well have been. You can see the lines where he cut most prominently around the left side of the small table.

This provided a number of advantages. First, from the perspective of the pictorialists, it gave them immense compositional control, which allowed them to better imitate painters, which was their stated goal. Second, it also gave photographers their first taste of close-up deep focus. Film at the time was not terribly sensitive, thus necessitating wide open lenses for anything except for bright sunshine. This of course resulted in a razor-thin depth of field. By taking multiple photos at different points along the Z-axis, then stitching them together, deep focus could be faked.

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