Long Exposure: A Century of Pictorialism examines the lasting effects on photography of the genre known as Pictorialism, which emerged in late 19th-century Europe.
Pictorialism argued for photography’s status as a fine art through the adoption of techniques and subjects most commonly associated with painting. By 1870, British photographers such as Henry Peach Robinson and Julia Margaret Cameron, whose work is on display in Long Exposure, sought to distinguish the medium from science.
Robinson and Cameron, along with other notable photographers of the era, modeled their images after Victorian genre paintings and French Impressionism. Through the use of special filters and manipulated negatives, these early photographers helped to define photography as art.
Byron Price, interim director of the museum, who teaches courses in the art and photography of the American West at OU, points out that the exhibition “not only brings together a group of prominent photographers and compelling images but also reflects the overall quality of the museum’s growing collection of photography.”
Included in Long Exposure are renowned photographers Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand and Imogen Cunningham, to name a few. The exhibition examines a century of Pictorialism from its beginnings in Europe and its adoption by members of the American Photo-Secession, through the golden era of Hollywood with portraits of silver screen legends like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.
Pictorialism’s continuing influence on amateur and professional photographers alike is evident in works by OU alumni alongside those of Dennis Stock and other mid-century photojournalists.
“Long Exposure provided an opportunity to feature works by OU students and faculty who were inspired by the pictorial aesthetic,” notes curator Hadley Jerman. “Joseph Benton, an OU alumnus and international opera star, made Pictorial photographs while touring Europe in the 1920s. The fact that students of Professor Andy Strout were making pictorial images in the late 1980s demonstrates Pictorialism’s long legacy. Some of those photographers are still working in a Pictorialist mode—that is, making innovative use of photographic images—in their artwork today.”
The exhibition also acknowledges how applications like Photoshop and Instagram have contributed to the legacy of the Pictorialism movement today. Included in the gallery space is a special engagement area for visitors to practice their Pictorialist skills by downloading photography apps in order to create and manipulate images of their own.
Long Exposure: A Century of Pictorialism is on display now at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art through June 27. A free, virtual gallery talk with exhibition curator Hadley Jerman is planned for 3 p.m. May 7. Visitors can sign up for the gallery talk and view a virtual tour of the exhibition on the museum’s website by visiting bit.ly/LongExposureExhibit.
The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art is located in the OU Arts District on the corner of Elm Avenue and Boyd Street, at 555 Elm Ave., on the OU Norman campus. Admission to the museum is complimentary to all visitors, thanks to a generous gift from the OU Athletics Department. Information and accessibility accommodations are available by calling (405) 325-4938 or visiting www.ou.edu/fjjma.