Comments by Alfred H Wall on

Thomas Sutton on Art Photography

In an article in the British Journal of Photography on 16 February 1863, Alfred H Wall returned to one of his favourite themes, 'Photography as one of the Fine Arts'.

This article appears to have been a lecture presented to the Photographic Society of Scotland.

Thomas Sutton, the subject of A H Wall's article, was Editor of the journal: Photographic Notes

A H Wall began his lecture by quoting several comments from Thomas Sutton over the period 1857-1860.  These supported photography's claim to being one of the Fine Arts, rather than merely a mechanical process.

A H Wall regarded Thomas Sutton's comments below as being "very wise remarks":

Photography is one of the Fine Arts

Photographic Notes


Comments by Thomas Sutton

"Although photography is certainly a mechanical means of representing nature, yet, when we compare a really fine photograph with an ordinary mechanical view, we are compelled to admit that it exhibits mind, and appreciation of the beautiful and skill of selection and treatment of the subject on the part of the photographer, to a degree that constitute him an artist in a high sense of the word."

However, A H Wall expressed concern at a sudden change in view expressed by Thomas Sutton in Photographic Notes in 1861.  Here Thomas Sutton made the following comment and advanced reasons for his conclusion, all of which were refuted by A H Wall.

Photography is NOT one of the Fine Arts

Photographic Notes


Comments by Thomas Sutton

"Photography has its peculiar value as a handmaid of the fine arts, but it is not one of them."

The differences of opinion between A H Wall and Thomas Sutton can be seen from their comments on nude in photography.  Sutton had criticised Rejlander's Two Ways of Life, submitted to the Photographic Society of Scotland's Exhibition in 1857.

 Two Ways of Life  -  Oscar Gustav Rejlander

The Nude in Photography

Comments by Thomas Sutton

"When the Council of this Society (The Photographic Society of Scotland) banished from the walls of its exhibition a photograph entitled "Two Ways of Life", in which degraded females were exhibited in a state of nudity, with all the uncompromising truthfulness of photography, they did quite right for there was neither art nor decency in such a photograph; and if I expressed a different opinion at the time I was wrong.

; but there is impropriety in allowing the public to see photographs of nude prostitutes in flesh-and-blood, truthfulness and minuteness of detail.

Sutton added that he saw no impropriety in exhibiting such works as Etty's "Bathers Surprised by a Swan", or the "Judgement of Paris", but there was impropriety in allowing the work of Rejlander to be seen.

A H Wall objected to Thomas Sutton "scattering his foul words among the models chosen by Rejlander for his beautiful photographs".

[British Journal of Photography 1863, pp.73-74]



Alfred H Wall

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