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

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.

Nottingham Castle

Off Friar Lane, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, NG1 6EL

01158 761 400


Opening times

Nottingham Castle is closed throughout 2019 for major redevelopment works, scheduled for completion in 2020.

Free to all

Free entry with National Art Pass

Free to all

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