This black-and-white photograph shows two naked children in a woodland pool, one standing, the other crouching. Their pale skin stands out against the dark setting. The blurred outlines of the surrounding objects create a quiet atmosphere.

Harold Mortimer-Lamb

(Leatherhead, England, 1872 – Burnaby, British Columbia, 1970)

 

The Pool

about 1907

Gelatin silver print

27.4 x 35 cm

Gift of Vera Mortimer-Lamb, 1975

National Gallery of Canada, 32248

© Estate of Harold Mortimer-Lamb. Photo: National Gallery of Canada


Set in nature and suffused with the spirit of Romanticism, the scene captured in The Pool is characteristic of the Pictorial aesthetic. Pictorialists experimented with a variety of techniques and materials in an effort to bring photography closer to painting, create unique works of art and make their methods difficult to copy. Here, the subtle shades of grey soften the contrasts and blur the outlines of the forms. The soft focus creates a particular atmospheric effect that imparts a sense of mystery, even fantasy to the scene. In The Pool, Harold Mortimer-Lamb combines subject matter and treatment to elicit the aesthetic experience of reverie.


Although Harold Mortimer-Lamb spent most of his professional life in the mining industry, he is recognized as a leading figure of Canadian Pictorialism and an art critic. Mortimer-Lamb used a variety of darkroom techniques to create visual effects aimed at blurring distinctions between photography and painting. Reflecting Pictorialist concerns, he frequently contributed articles to general and specialized publications defending photography as a legitimate art form and reporting on the state of photography in Canada.

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