Early photography was perceived by the public to be a purely mechanical process for producing images - something very far from a fine art form. By the 1890s, some photographers were beginning to take issue with this categorization and sought to change public opinion.  Styling themselves Pictorialists, they deliberately complicated the making of photographs, employing labor-intensive processes and soft focus to emulate widely admired painterly effects, often evocative of Impressionism.

Pictorialism and the acceptance of its aesthetic aims paved the way for the American movement known as the Photo Secession.

Erin Weible

(Imogen Cunningham: On Mt. Rainier 5)


Imogen Cunningham (U.S., 1883–1976)

On Mt. Rainier 5. 1915

Gelatin silver print

7 11/16 x 6 1/16 in. image size

Henry Art Gallery, gift of Gryffyd and Janet Partridge, in memory of Imogen Cunningham, 96.2

The intrepid photographer Imogen Cunningham’s early photographs were experiments in Pictorialism and Photo Secession practices. Reminiscing about this time period, she pictured herself “. . .on the University of Washington campus in the lower part of the woods, stark naked lying in the grass.” In this photograph, Cunningham’s choice to shoot in an outdoor setting at a comfortable distance allows her to portray her subject as both natural and intimate.

(Imogen Cunningham: On Mt. Rainier. 2)


Imogen Cunningham (U.S., 1883–1976)

On Mt. Rainier 2. 1915

Platinum print

7 1/2 x 9 1/2 in. image size

Henry Art Gallery, Joseph and Elaine Monsen Photography Collection, gift of Joseph and Elaine Monsen and The Boeing Company, 97.46