P.H. Emerson : Gallery Exhibition & Online

3 Dec 2020 - 31 Jan 2021

Michael Hoppen Gallery is delighted to be exhibiting work by English photography pioneer Peter Henry Emerson (1856 – 1936) for the first time.


This display of original vintage photogravures and vintage platinum prints, has been organised in conjunction with renowned 19th Century photography specialist Robert Hershkowitz. At a time when so many of us are weighing up the value of urban living in favour of more rural existences, these images resonate with a longing for the English countryside and its traditional ways of life. We will show original prints from Emerson’s most famous series Marsh Leaves (1895) in addition to a selection of hand-processed pictures from his first album Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads. All prints will be for sale, with prices available upon request.


Emerson is renowned for his photographs which capture the life and landscapes of East Anglia’s agrarian community. His work reflects the influence of the Realist school of painting, incorporating a photographic and specifically English sensibility into their artistic celebration of peasant lifestyles. Emerson was an early proponent of straight photography as an art form, eschewing both the undiscriminating emphasis of sharp focus rendering and the romantic vagueness of soft focus. Emerson’s subjective approach aimed to replicate the experience of the human eye’s encounter with the world; his vocal advocacy of this ‘truthful’ photography saw him rise to a position of considerable and controversial influence within the contemporary photography establishment.


Peter Henry Emerson was born in Cuba and moved to England at 13 to attend boarding school. Originally introduced to photography on bird-watching trips, Emerson was a founding member of the Camera Club of London in 1885 before being elected to the Council of the Royal Photographic Society in the following year. He continued to practise and write about photography, publishing a number of albums and treaties, throughout the rest of his life. Emerson has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions and his photography is held in the permanent collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Getty Museum, Los Angeles.