In the later half of the 20th century, Bethel University was gifted the largest existing archive of prominent Pictorialist photographer, George C. Poundstone's (b.1870- d.1938) photographs, writings, journals, films and negatives. In the late 1920s and 1930s, Poundstone made images true to the Pictorialist style: often soft focused, romantically lit, and more often than not made with multiple images to create the most aesthetically pleasing composition possible. Pictorialists did not see themselves as deceiving the public by creating landscapes and moments that were not necessarily real, they simply believed that photography had the ability to be a hybrid combination of real-life detail and the artistic license of painting.
Since photography’s invention in 1827, the question of truth in a photograph has been assumed and yet the practice of combining images is nearly as old as the medium itself. If a photograph is taken of a landscape, we supposed it was real place. If a photograph of an event was captured we believed it was a true moment. It is only in the normalcy and commonplace of digitally manipulated images in contemporary culture that our perception of truth in images has changed. Poundstone used combination techniques to create images that communicated ideas about beauty, composition and order, which is not so different than our contemporary use of digitally altered and enhanced photographs.
Research and the creation of a digital archive, accessible to art historians and scholars through the Bethel University Digital Library, originated with an Edgren Scholars grant during the summer of 2013. The project will also result in an exhibition, lecture and catalog in Spring 2014.