Combination Printing – Henry Peach Robinson Essay
In Henry Peach Robinson’s writing on combination printing, it is interesting to see that the methods designed to give “greater facilities for representing the truth of nature” actually mean that the full indexicality
(what many would see as the basic ‘truth’ of photography) is lost or compromised.
It seems that he doesn’t view reality as being captured in the faithful reproduction that a camera gives (although, of course, methods and the sophistication of the instrument were such that the image gained was less ‘true to life’ than that which we are now used to) but as an ideal to be (re)created in photography. In this we see an almost Platonic view where the most perfect forms are the ‘truest’. To a certain extent this is similar to Mannerism, working to create a harmonious perfect whole by taking the best parts of other artists and life, and putting them together, an example of which philosophy we see in Robinson’s Somebody’s Coming (1895). This method, to Robinson’s mind, supported his cause to be seen as an artist and not just an operator of a machine for reduplicating reality; the hand of the artist is not directly seen (the photo should be seamless) but the result shows that it was in action nonetheless.