Pictorialism emerged in the early twentieth century as a prominent style of fine art photography. Artists engaged in this style were interested in the effects of transient light and Japanese compositional elements. They developed innovative darkroom techniques to create unique soft-focus photographs that reflected contemporary painting styles. Historically, pictorial photography was narrowly defined by certain characteristics that gave an inaccurate assessment of its important contributions to the medium. Recent rediscoveries from American regional camera clubs, including the Seattle Camera Club (SCC), reveal that the movement was broader and more individualist than previously thought.
Shadows of a Fleeting World provides a rare glimpse into the regional Pictorialist movement. It documents the lives and artistic accomplishments of the SCC photographers. The SCC was one of the most active and successful in the United States, and, fortunately, preservation of its works and history allow for a rich interpretation of its art. Japanese immigrants formed the club's core, and their work routinely blended Pictorialist methods with Japanese aesthetic traditions. The Japanese-influenced Pictorialist works of the SCC made a unique contribution to the international art movement.
The book is generously illustrated with images and prints from SCC artists, many of which have never been published before.
David F. Martin is an independent art historian and curator specializing in women and minority artists of the Pacific Northwest. Nicolette Bromberg is visual materials curator, Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries.
"In ways both deliberate and unintended, the images in Shadows of a Fleeting World are a study in evanescence . . . a revelation on several levels, starting with the aesthetically captivating nature of much of the work. The photographs are valuable, too, for evoking a Seattle of almost 90 years ago with visual poetry that transcends mere documentation."
"The book itself is a work of art, featuring plentiful sepia-toned images from the show: cityscapes, landscapes, faces, the play of light and shadow. The ghostly images-harmonious as woodcuts, quiet as ikebana-resonate with the Japanese aesthetic quality of 'aware,' a kind of longing for a home that can't be named."
". . . extraordinary 'painterly' photographs shot in the area in the 1920s."
"In February, the Henry Art Gallery, UW Libraries and UW Press are teaming up to bring the beauty of the Seattle Camera Club to the public with the publication of Shadows of a Fleeting World, and an exhibition of 100 works of the collection at the Henry Art Gallery."