Scratched and Blurry


When in the late 19th century Kodak invented the first handheld amateur camera, some photographers tried to distance their art from those snapshots. These Pictorialists did not want to record a straightforward picture but craft a piece of art. They manipulated their pictures in labor-intensive printing processes which controlled the final appearance of the image.

Their film negative would be an ordinary glass plate which could be painted or scratched to alter the image. Typical printing processes then were the gum bichromate printing, which involved hand-coating artist papers with emulsions and pigments, or platinum printing. These were contact prints on a variety of papers, which again could be chemically processed to manipulate the tones or brushed and scratched.

Mainly between 1885 and 1915 the pictorialists created their typical images with a lack of sharp focus, a two tone image ( warm brown to deep blue) and visible brush strokes. Their prints were unique due to the individual processing and could often be mistaken for paintings or drawings.


I like that idea of creating or crafting a piece of art, just taking the image as the starting point, using different techniques and materials. But here, as a starting point, I have recreated (or been inspired by) a few pictorialist images and tried to achieve similar effects in photoshop. Not easy! But probably also not as messy and frustrating as the original techniques.

I took images from two female photographers who both started their photographic career after they had enjoyed motherhood and raised their children (just like me!).

Gertrude Käsebier (1852 – 1934) was an American photographer. She became known for her portraits of children and motherhood. A nice blog about her, with a very fitting name, is Faded and Blurred.

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) is probably much wider known than Gertrude Käsebier. There were two major exhibitions about her work in London this year (in the Science Museum and V&A).

Cameron took portraits of family and friends, but also staged biblical, historical and allegorical stories, partly due to her being a devout Christian. For this she employed her maids and children of neighbours. She depicted children in typical Victorian appearance as angelic and androgynous, idolising their innocence. One of her favourite models was her niece Julia who had four children, one of which was the writer Virginia Woolf. Her images might not be to everyone’s taste, and they never have been, but she has always been acknowledged for breaking rules, photographic and social. Again, a good article can be found on Faded and Blurred and on artsy, where you can even buy some of her photographs.



Julia Margaret Cameron: Devotion
My version of “Devotion”
3St Agnes
Julia Margarete Cameron: St Agnes
4st agnes
My version of St. Agnes. Not necessarily my taste, but definitely challenging…
[Standing Girl with Violin]
Gertrude Käsebier: Standing Girl with Violin
My version of Gertrude Käsebier’s image
Elizabeth O'Malley [McFarland]
Gertrude Käsebier: Elizabeth O’Malley
My favourite image of my own pictorialist images
The original self-portrait of Gertrude Käsebier
Selfportrait small
My version of Käsebier’s self-portrait. Fun to make, but by now I would know better and easier ways to achieve similar results.


Copyright with the original images obviously remains with the respective foundations.

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