Landscape Genres of Photography

Early Landscape Photography

A desire to make images of the surrounding world motivated early photographers to record both the natural landscape and the built environment. The accuracy of photographs also helped to establish their use as documentation in research expeditions, and therefore, beginning in the early 1840s, many of the earliest archaeological photographers were active on expeditionary campaigns in Egypt and the Middle East. In addition, a growing commercial market for images of foreign historical monuments and archaeological sites expanded, with photographers and artists catering to both European and American tastes during the second half of the nineteenth century. With the growth of Western colonial empires, exotic locations, at one time difficult to access, became a popular subject for photography.

Three early landscape photographs in the LVCFAC serve as examples by noted photographers who had established studios in the Near East. One of two brothers, Antonio Beato (Italian, after 1834–1906), opened a photographic studio in Luxor around 1862 that produced thousands of tourist images of Egyptian sites. Felix (French, 1831–1885) and Marie Bonfils moved from France to Beirut in 1867 and established a successful family enterprise there.

Antonio Beato (Italian, 1834–1906), Philae, c. 1860s–1880s, albumen print, 10 ½ x 14 ½ inches, Lebanon Valley College Fine Art Collection, gift of Richard and Pauline Charles, 2011.6.2.

After photography was first introduced to the world in 1839, early practitioners made their way to destinations around the Mediterranean including Egypt, Greece, and the Levant. With the advent of steamship and railway lines, by the mid-nineteenth century middle class travel was expanding to exotic locations. Photography helped to make these places seem accessible even to the armchair traveler.

Born in Italy around 1834, photographer Antonio Beato later became a British citizen. Having established an Egyptian photography firm based in Luxor, Beato produced thousands of tourist images throughout his career. This image, taken on the island of Philae in the Nile, is of the Kiosk of Trajan, an ancient open-air temple (hypaethral) named for the Roman emperor who had it built. Moored in front of the temple is the type of riverboat photographers used to traverse the Nile.

Antonio Beato (Italian, 1834–1906), Ramesseum, c. 1860s, 1880s, albumen print, 10 ½ x 14 ½ inches, Lebanon Valley College Fine Art Collection, gift of Richard and Pauline Charles, 2011.6.1.

The memorial tomb of the great Pharaoh Ramesses II, the Ramesseum remained a highlight destination for tourists throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century. –Lindsay McMasters ’14, Major: Art & Art History, Spring 2014 Gallery Intern

Felix Bonfils (French, 1831–1885), 1m Cataracte. Les Rapides/Egypte, c. 1880, albumen print, 8 ½ x 10 ¾ inches, Lebanon Valley College Fine Art Collection, gift of Richard and Pauline Charles, 2011.3.

Felix and Marie Bonfils were among some of the earliest European photographers attracted to the Near East prior to the 1880s. The Bonfils moved from France to Beirut in 1867 and, because their studio was a family enterprise, photographs were handed down from generation to generation, making it difficult to assess who produced specific images from their enormous stock.

This photograph artistically captures the boulders and stones scattered across the shallow section of the Nile River known as “Cataracts of the Nile,” which is located between Khartoum and Aswan. It demonstrates that photographers, such as the Bonfils, were not only documenting exotic locales but also using a fine aesthetic sensibility in their compositions.

Peter Henry Emerson (British, 1856–1936), The Fringe of the Marsh, 1886, platinum print, 7 x 11 1/2 inches, unframed, Lebanon Valley College Fine Art Collection, 2011.5.

English photographer Peter Henry Emerson was impacted by mid-nineteenth century French Barbizon painters whose work emphasized the landscape and peasant scenes set in soft tones. Inspired by nature, Emerson defined a style of camera work in his book Naturalistic Photography (1889). His approach was characterized by the use of simple compositions and differential focusing, which he believed to be imitative of natural vision. His philosophy was a reaction against the style of artistic photography at the time that used allegorical subjects, sharp detail, and composite printing techniques, which Emerson saw as contrived. His book sparked controversy within the established photographic community. His pioneering writings and work influenced the early work of photography impresario Alfred Stieglitz (American,1864–1946).

In 1882 Emerson began a series of photographs documenting the marshy region of East Anglia, Britain, inhabited by poor farm laborers, fishermen, hunters, and basket makers. A conservationist concerned with the increasing encroachment of modern civilization in regions such as the Norfolk Broads in East Anglia, he wanted to record fast-disappearing customs and traditions. The Fringe of the Marsh, one of forty platinum prints, is from his landmark book Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads.

Keystone Viewing Company, stereoscope and stereographs set, c. early 20th century?, Lebanon Valley College Fine Art Collection, gift of Suzanne Arnold Schrotberger H'96, 2017.3.1 and 2017.3.2.

Early photographers took stereographs which paired a single image viewed side by side through a stereoscope, producing a startling three-dimensional illusion. This type of viewing was popular with armchair travelers through the early twentieth century.

Haines Photography, Untitled (Natural Bridge, VA), 1909, photograph, 12 ½ x 27 ½ inches, Lebanon Valley College Fine Art Collection, gift of Scott Eggert, LVC professor emeritus of music, 2013.2.2.

Scenic views of American natural wonders were recorded by photographers like this dramatic vertical photograph of the Natural Bridge in Virginia. Such scenes included people to provide a sense of scale, as seen at the base of the rock formation on the right.

Monte Alban, Oaxaca, Mexico, 2013, Duratrans, digital photograph.

The Gallery was the recipient of a 2013 President’s Innovation Fund Grant to travel to Oaxaca, Mexico and experience the cultural tradition of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). This grant provided funds for Gallery intern Kara Gunderman ’14, accompanied by Director Barbara McNulty and guide Marisela Chaplin, to conduct research in preparation for an exhibition about this celebration of life and death. This photograph was taken during their tour of the pre-Columbian archaeological site of Monte Alban.

Located in the Valley of Oaxaca, Monte Alban is the structural remnants of a pre-Colombian economic, political, and religious urban center created by the Zapoteca people. The ruins on this acropolis mimic the elevation cadence of the surrounding Western mountains: to be closer to the sky was to be closer to the gods. The Zapotec elite, according to both history and contemporary legend, believed themselves to be descents of supernatural beings living in the clouds, and believed they would return to the clouds in death. The Zapotecs of today call themselves Be'ena' Za'a, The Cloud People, in accordance with this legend.

Carvings and frescos of deities upon the architecture denote the site as a sacred space. The excavations of Alfonso Caso in the 1930’s revealed a vast number of tombs beneath and surrounding the complex. One of these chambers, Tomb 7, contained over 200 sacred artifacts of gold, silver, jade, amber, turquoise, and shell left in offering to a deceased Zapotec noble. This photograph taken during the 2013 research trip to Oaxaca overlooks the Great Plaza with the Southern Platform in the distance.

Urban Landscape

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898–1991), Murray Hill Hotel, 1935, gelatin silver print, 9 ¾ x 7 ¾ inches, framed 21 x 17 ¼ inches, Lebanon Valley College Fine Art Collection, gift of Suzanne Arnold Schrotberger H'96, 2013.1.

Known in Berenice Abbott’s time as the “Old Lady,” this 600-room hotel built in 1884 was an eloquent reminder of a bygone era. In Abbott’s photographs of the building, she concentrated on the elegant details of the Victorian exterior, such as the circular balconies seen in this image. A former night clerk of the hotel had purchased it, refusing to modernize or sell it. With his death in 1935, rumors of its sale and may have been one of the reasons for Abbott’s documentation. It was finally sold in 1943 and demolished in 1947 for a 36-story office tower.

The photograph was included in a 2014 Gallery exhibition A Tale of Two Cities: Eugene Atget’s Paris and Berenice Abbott’s New York loaned by art2art circulating exhibitions. Eugene Atget’s (French, 1857–1927) documentation of Paris between 1897 and 1927 is said to have defined the era of France’s “Belle Epoch.” This humble “street photographer” changed the way we look at modernism and art. However, very little is known about Atget and the motivations for his art. Most of what we do know has been provided by the impressive efforts of American photographer Abbott to gain recognition for his work. Captivated by Atget’s documentation of Paris, it became Abbott’s passion to photograph New York City. When she had returned from her sojourn in Paris in 1929, Abbott was struck by how the newly constructed skyscrapers were changing the look of the city and she wanted to document that change.

The purchase of this photograph was part of an assignment in ART-214 The History of Photography to expose students to real life situations in the museum world related to photography. It was purchased with the Suzanne H. Arnold Art Gallery Acquisition fund. For this assignment, students were to review an online photography auction catalogue and choose a photograph for the Gallery to acquire for its collection. Students were asked to provide a written rationale for their choice, based on the Gallery’s mission statement and the photograph’s possible use in an upcoming exhibition. The acquisition committee of the Gallery’s Advisory Council selected the top three choices and Murray Hill Hotel was the winning bid.