‘Autumn’, combination albumen print by Henry Peach Robinson,1863.
According to Ian Jeffrey, Peach Robinson's works confront the dilemma of photography between activity and passivity, that is, between imagination, the artist's unique faculty of giving form to what is primarily an "inner" vision clothed by the figures of the visible world, by the forms of external reality, and the recording of appearances that is, something like a "self-presentation of nature" mediate by the photographic apparatus and process - a double challenge taking away the artist's control and his self-representation as a kind of "demiurge" of the visible world.
In the works of Robinson, Rejlander and others, photography assumes the "challenge" of art as a sort of competition for "aesthetic recognition" on the grounds of the established system of the arts, its recognized values and attributed functions. The very values and functions that the advent of photography will contribute to undermine and transform.
Turning mimesis into "mimetic desire", their works explored some of the inner capabilities of photography and, at the same time, in their unresolved visual and conceptual tensions and contradictions, exposed the limitations of their own problematics, that is, of the field of questions, assumed values and purposes determining the theory and practice of the contemporary "art" of photography.
Marcelo Guimarães Lima