Coburn, Alvin Langdon  (American, 1882-1966)

The Anglo-American photographer, Coburn, was a leading figure in the drive to promote photography as an art form in its own right. His considered use of framing, composition and subject matter, and his use of soft-focus, lent his photographs an artistic quality that went beyond the mere snapshot. Built in the Palladian style, with Italiniate interiors, and landscaping by Capability Brown, Moor Park is a quintessential example of an eighteenth-century country house. Coburn’s photos of the house include soft-focus images of the parkland, framed studies of the statuary, and people-less shots of the great marble interiors. The images have a sentimental, nostalgic quality, perhaps a reflection of the fading authority and importance of the great country house estates. As such, the book is at odds with Coburn’s work of 1909, ‘New York’, in which his depictions of the industrial skyscrapers and bridges of Manhattan are designed to show the energy and modernism of the twentieth-century urban city. Coburn took these photographs while teaching photography to Moor Park’s owner, Lady Emilie Ebury.