PH Emerson: Presented by the Author

Nottingham Castle

21 November 2015 – 7 February 2016

Free with National Art Pass (standard entry £6)

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An exploration of the work and writing of this controversial and influential photographer.

PH Emerson, A Toad in the Path, plate 9 from the Pictures of East Anglian Life portfolio, 1890

Peter Henry Emerson originally trained as a doctor. At the age of 26, during his studies at Cambridge, Emerson bought his first camera. It was the first step into an entirely different direction for the budding surgeon. Although the camera was to be a mere tool for his bird-watching, it soon became an obsession. A year after obtaining his medical degree, Emerson abandoned his career and devoted his life to the medium.

He became one of the most pioneering photographers and opinionated writers of the 19th century. In 1889, Emerson published a controversial and influential book entitled Naturalistic Photography for Students of the Art. In it, he argued for naturalism in photography; preserving the way the human eye sees nature – not as sharply as a photographic lens. He clashed with the photographic establishment over this idea, and in doing so evolved the medium.

This exhibition explores the artist’s photography alongside his intriguing writing. The objects on display, drawn from the V&A and the castle’s own collections, will reveal Emerson’s fascinating editorial vision and ideas which have continued to influence photography to this day.

PH Emerson: Presented by the Author is curated by Federica Chiocchetti who is part of the V&A Photography Curators’ Training Programme, supported by the Art Fund.

Venue information

Opening times

Feb – Oct
Daily, 10am – 5pm

Nov – Feb
Wed – Sun, 10am – 4pm

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)