Gathering Water-Lilies
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Peter Henry Emerson
British, East Anglia, England, 1886
Platinum print
7 13/16 x 11 1/2 in.

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Initially published as a limited-edition photogravure, this photograph of a man and a woman in a rowboat subsequently appeared in Peter Henry Emerson's first book, Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads. Emerson preferred book or album presentation so that text could accompany the image. He advocated naturalism in photography, which meant that he believed photographs should represent nature as truthfully as possible without manipulation by the photographer. Emerson's writings indicated his passion for photography. He declared: "...we must first see the picture in nature and be struck by its beauty so that we cannot rest until we have secured it on our plate...."

He derived his subject matter from rural life in the marshy, coastal region of East Anglia, northeast of London. The book features images of laborers, and this peaceful scene is no exception: as the man rows, the woman gathers flowers to use as bait for fishing. Water-lilies were placed in a large bow net, like the one behind the oarsman in this image. The bow net was then sunk to trap tench, a fish common to these waters. Emerson sought a moment of tender beauty as the woman reaches into the water to collect a blossom.