The Lone Lagoon Emerson, Peter Henry  (British, 1856-1936)

“The drawing of the lens is not to be equaled by any man; the tones of a correctly and suitably printed photograph far surpass those of any other black and white process… there is ample room for selection, judgment, and posing, and in a word, a finished photograph is a work of Art. Again it is evident that the translation of pictures by photogravure, for the same reasons given above, will be superior to that of any engraving… I think I am right in saying that I was the first to base the claims of photography as a fine Art on these grounds [scientific], and I venture to predict that the day will come when photographs will be admitted to hang on the walls of the Royal Academy.” 1886 (Newhal p40)

The landscape is lovely but unreachable, wrapped in mist or touched by frost, unpopulated and nearing abstraction in its most remarkable image, "The Lone Lagoon." Virtually a Chinese ink painting or a monochrome abstraction, this image presents two islands across a wide expanse of water as if they are a mirage or a dream… Although emphatically rural and regional, unlike the cosmopolitan and international decadence of much fin-desiecle art, its elegiac tone was perhaps responsible for its continuing relevance. Historians today see it as predicting the direction of the next century’s fine art photographic practice." – Imagining Paradise, p. 193

Emerson, P H. English Idyls, Third Edition, Revised and Re-Arranged. London: A. G. Berry, 1924. De-luxe Edition. (Ordinary edition limited to 1,000 numbered copies). With a photogravure frontispiece of the Lone Lagoon made from the original plate (from Marsh Leaves). Very rare – one of only twenty five numbered copies. Inscribed by Emerson. ["English Idyls" Third Edition 1924 – 1924]

Reproduced / Exhibited

Collections: musée d’Orsay


Newhall, Nancy. P. H. Emerson: The Fight for Photography As a Fine Art. New York: Aperture, 1976. p. 189.

Carl Fuldner, ‘Emerson’s Evolution’, Tate Papers, no.27, Spring 2017,, accessed 26 July 2017.

Taylor J. The Old Order and the New : P.h. Emerson and Photography 1885-1895. Munich: Prestel; 2006.