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John Kauffmann: Art Photographer

Glossary  &  Further Reading


Pictorial photographers employed a variety of processes to alter the tonal range and details recorded on their original negatives. Mostly these 'control processes' (as they were known) suppressed detail and gave an overall tonality which was usually rather dark and 'atmospheric', but also emphasised selected dominant highlights.

Pictorial photographs presented the scene as if seen through a veil of atmosphere; chiffon or some similar material was often interposed between negative and print to soften down the contrast and outlines. Special long-focus lenses could be used to soften and flatten the image in the negative, or the enlarger and lenses not focused properly for resolution of the image.

Gum bichromate, oil and bromoil prints were the main control processes used by serious art photographers around 1900 to 1920, and were deployed to assert the photographers' freedom to introduce whatever expressive Pictorial elements they deemed appropriate in creating an autonomous work of art.

By increasing dark and light tones, the whole of the original photographic image could be altered in colour and tone. Unwanted details could be obliterated or other elements drawn in.


The cloud c. 1910 half tone reproduction in The Art of John Kauffmann 1919

Gelatin silver photograph

The technical term for the modern monochrome i.e. black and white photograph. It may be in brown or other neutral shades, depending on the chemical development and type of paper used for the print. Introduced in the 1890s and most often referred to as a bromide (silver bromide salts are used as the light sensitive agent).

Until well into the 1950s art photographers used a variety of matte surface bromide emulsions on cream papers which developed up to give brown tones. Highly glossy 'cold' blue-black tone photographs on white paper were first introduced in the 1910s, being superior for reproduction in the new illustrated magazines and books using the half tone process. From the 1920s, this type of 'cold' paper and glossy surface became the norm for black and white photography and for exhibition work.

Gum bichromate photograph

One of the control processes favoured by Pictorialists. The sensitive solution is made of non-silver agents, gum arabic, potassium bichromate and pigment (which could be of any colour). The emulsion hardens in relation to the amount of light it receives. Unexposed emulsion was washed away and could be further manipulated by brushes. The resulting image was closer to traditional printmaking than to the shine and tone of photography.
Bromoil and bromoil transfer.

Another of the control processes favoured by Pictorialists. A standard gelatin silver print was treated with potassium bichromate to harden the gelatin. When oil pigment is applied with a stipple brush to a wet print, the oil adheres in proportion to the dark and light parts of the image. A transfer print could be made from the inked-up bromoil. The process allowed for considerable modification of the tones and details in the original negative.

Carbon print

An attractive print process in which sheets of commercially-produced pigmented tissues (in a range of rich colours i.e. brown, black, green, red, blue) could be sensitised to take an impression by direct contact with a negative or photographic print under sunlight. It was popular with art photographers for its fidelity to the detail and tonal range of the camera, but with the surface quality and colour of traditional graphic art prints. Carbon prints were also convenient for amateurs, as prints could be made without electric light enlargers or photochemical development. These were also called 'carbro prints' when made from prints rather than negatives.

Self-portrait, John Kauffmann and his sister, Caroline Marcus. Melbourne c.1940 private collection


Further Reading (as suggested in 1980)

Anthony Bannon, The Photo-Pictorialists of Buffalo, Buffalo: Media Study, 1981

Isobel Crombie, In a New Light: Aspects of Australian Pictorial photography, Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1993 (exhibition catalogue)

Isobel Crombie, Martyn Jolly and Helen Ennis, Highlights and Soft Shadows: Pictorialism in Australian photography, Canberra: Australian National Gallery, 1985

Robert Doty, Photo-Secession: Stieglitz and the fine art movement in photography, New York: Dover, 1978

Nancy Newall, P.H. Emerson: The fight for photography as a fine art, New York: Aperture Inc., 1975

Gael Newton, Australian Pictorial Photography: A survey of art photography from 1898-1938, Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1979

Gael Newton, Silver and Grey: Fifty years of Australian photography, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1980

Gael Newton, Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988,   Sydney: Australian National Gallery in assoc. with Collins Australia, 1988

Gael Newton, 'John Kauffmann 1864-1942 Art Photographer', The Australasian Antique Collector, 20th edn, 1980, pp. 114-120

Naomi Rosenblum, A World History of Photography, New York: Abbeville Press, 1984

Sue Smith, Queensland Pictorialist Photography 1920-1950, Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery, 1984 (exhibition catalogue)

John Taylor, Pictorial Photography in Britain 1900-1920, London: Arts Council of Great Britain 1978 (exhibition catalogue)

Jean Waterhouse and Alison Carroll, Real Visions: The life and work of F.A. Joyner, South Australian photographer 1863-1945, Adelaide: Art Gallery of South Australia, 1981



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