11 March 2012

The Linked Ring


 The Photographic Salon exhibition of 1902 (source: Leggat pdf)
The Salon was created in 1893 by members of the Linked Ring.


"Many artists regard the hanging of their work at the Royal Academy almost as an accolade. So too with photographers. In the 1880s, the exhibitions mounted by the Photographic Society were regarded as the premier event. However, several of its members were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the Society's emphasis on scientific as opposed to aesthetic matters. As time went on differences between the photographic scientists and photographic artists became greater and more acrimonious, and Henry Peach Robinson was becoming increasingly frustrated by the failure of the Photographic Society to recognize that there was an artistic dimension as well as a scientific one to photography. The Photographic News for 19 August 1892 pinpointed the problem: "If photography is ever to take up its proper position as an art it must detach itself from science and live a separate existence." 

 Commenting upon the proceedings of the Photographic Society, Robinson wrote  "For years art has scarcely been mentioned... The feeling that art had nothing to do with the Society became so pronounced two or three years ago that one of the officials expressed his opinion that papers on art may be tolerated if they could be got and there was nothing better to be had...." The circumstances which led to the final breakup between Robinson and the Photographic Society were relatively trivial, but they were the last straw, and led to the resignation of Robinson and George Davidson from the Society. At that time Robinson was a much respected Vice-President of the Society, and had been a member for many years, and his resignation was followed by that of several other distinguished photographers of the time.


In May 1892, a few months after the disastrous Council meeting which had culminated in these resignations, Robinson founded the Linked Ring, a brotherhood consisting of a group of photographers based in London, pledged to enhance photography as a fine art. Famous members of this brotherhood (which was by invitation only - one could not apply for it) included Frank Sutcliffe, Frederick Evans, Paul Martin, and Alfred Stieglitz.

Though the formation of this group was, as their publicity indicated, "a means of bringing together those who are interested in the development of the highest form of Art of which Photography is capable", it is also very likely that serious photographers were now trying to distance themselves from the growth of photography for all, brought about by the introduction of simple cameras. The idea that anyone could press a button and take a photograph caused the more dedicated to look for new techniques which the "snap photographers" would never aspire to.



 from A History of Photography from its beginnings till the 1920s by Dr. Robert Leggat


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