This past week I visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. This museum is one of my favorites as it always has a photography exhibit (which changes every 4 to 6 months). Fortunately, I made it just in time to see the exhibit "A Subtle Beauty: Platinum Photographs from the Collection" before it closed on January 4. The exhibit featured about two dozen photographic prints from the early 20th century. The prints were made on platinum paper, which was a popular medium for printing from the about the 1880's to the early 1930's and is known for its large tonal range and ethereal qualities. I learned that in the early 20th century there was a group of photographers known as pictorialists that were trying to push photography as a true art form (on equal footing as classical paintings, Alfred Stieglitz was a key figure in this movement). These photographers favored using platinum paper as a medium since it could have a textured surface and be manipulated to give a personal and very artistic look.
"Auguste Rodin" by pictorialist photographer Gertrude Kasebier (circa 1906, from th e Library of Congress).