As the banks of the Thames were becoming modern thoroughfares and bridges were being rebuilt, photographers placed their cameras at the same vantage points as the painters and printmakers.
The founding of the Royal Photographic Society in 1853 marked London as an international center for photography, both in scientific and artistic circles. Because of photography's seemingly unique ability to transport the viewer to a particular place at a particular moment, it was quickly taken up as a tool for the long-standing tradition of English topography, to document the landscape, both urban and rural. At the same time, the albumen prints of Roger Fenton and Francis Frith, both well-known English photographers of their time, provide examples of early photographic work that offered a vision of the medium's broader potential. By the mid-1850s, the widely popular stereographic print, when placed in a stereoscope viewer, transformed the two-dimensional experience of a London landmark into a three-dimensional, virtual experience.
At the end of the nineteenth century, art photography was flourishing in London. Some of the photographers in this exhibition were members of the Linked Ring Brotherhood, a group that, as part of the international art photography movement known as Pictorialism, aspired to create painting-like prints. The American photographer and expatriate Alvin Langdon Coburn, who moved to London in 1900, was a member of the group and one of the foremost champions of this style. Coburn's images of the Thames evoke both the Pictorialist aesthetic of the brushed, textured surface and the foggy, smoke-laden air for which London and its river were so notorious.
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