The Old Order and the New Emerson, Peter Henry  (British, 1856-1936)

Peter Henry Emerson (1856–1936) took photographs of labourers and fishermen on the rivers and Broads of Suffolk and Norfolk between 1885 and 1895. Emerson preferred pre-industrial ways of life to the new order, represented by steam-driven machines, which he felt destroyed traditional agriculture and opened up the region to tourists and mass production.

He aimed to preserve the old ways of country life by using new photographic methods and promoted a style of photography that looked realistic, or what he called ‘naturalistic’. This meant using soft focus to create images of the world just as natural eyesight sees it. In order to print photographs in books and keep their high level of realism, he avoided cheap forms of mass production and used the new and expensive gravure photographic process.

This print is from a portfolio that contains sixteen hand-pulled dust-grain photogravures of rare masterpieces from Britain’s greatest photographers, published in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The portfolio features important works by nineteenth-century masters of the medium such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Frederick H. Evans, Lady Hawarden, David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, Oscar G. Rejlander, Henry Peach Robinson, William Henry Fox Talbot, and Benjamin Brecknell Turner. Wherever possible, the plates were made from the photographer’s original negatives.


Malcolm R. Daniel, and Florian Rodari. Graver La Lumière: L’héliogravure D’alfred Stieglitz À Nos Jours Ou La Reconquête D’un Instrument Perdu. Vevey, Suisse: Fondation William Cuendet & Atelier de Saint-Prex, 2002. p. 18