21 November 2015 to 7 February 2016

Displayed within our new Temporary Exhibition Gallery on the First Floor, opposite the lift within the North Hall area of the building (formerly the ‘Family Gallery’).

Peter Henry Emerson
(b. Cuba 1856 – d. UK 1936) was one of the most pioneering photographers – and opinionated writers – of the late 19th century. His interests were eclectic, and included medicine, sports, genealogy, anthropology, and ornithology. Between 1881 and 1895 he devoted his life to photography and writing about rural life in East Anglia, particularly the Norfolk Broads.

Defined by one critic as “The Courbet of England”, Emerson argued for naturalism in photography and developed influential photographic techniques, such as ‘selective focus’. Inspired by early theories of perception, he wanted to preserve the way the human eye sees nature – not as sharply as a photographic lens. His fervent and public opposition to other, more ‘artificial’, Victorian photographers, such as Henry Peach Robinson, has become a classic episode in the history of photography. Unexpectedly, in 1890 Emerson recanted his view that photography was an art, although he continued to publish incredible pictorial books, accompanying his images with his writing until 1895.

With works drawn from the V&A and the Castle’s own collections, and presented in our new temporary exhibition gallery, this exhibition explores the artist’s modes of presenting his photographs to the public. Published as exquisite portfolios of photogravures, or as beautiful bound pictorial books, or as stand-alone large scale prints, the objects on display will reveal Emerson’s fascinating editorial vision and intriguing writings. Furthermore, the inclusion of archival documents from the V&A will shed light on the ways in which Emerson carefully controlled the circulation of his work.


The exhibition is curated by Federica Chiocchetti as part of Nottingham Castle’s partnership with the V&A via their Curatorial Fellowship Programme, supported by the Art Fund.

Image Credit: P.H. Emerson, A Toad in the Path, photogravure, plate 9 from the ‘Pictures of East Anglian Life’ portfolio, 1890; NCM 1890-1321-9.




P.H. Emerson Symposium
21 November 2015, 10am to 4pm.

£15 per person (includes entry fee, lunch and refreshments)

This one-day symposium explores Emerson’s fascinating life, his photographic vision and writings.

Speakers include: Martin Barnes (Senior Curator of Photographs, V&A, London), Dr Hope Kingsley (Curator, Education and Collections, Wilson Centre for Photography), Prof David Matless (Cultural Geography, University of Nottingham), Edith Marie Pasquier (Artist and Researcher, Royal College of Art, London) and Stephen Hyde (Nottinghamshire-born great-grandson of P.H. Emerson).




Our partners at East Midlands Trains are offering a low-cost return travel from London St Pancras to Nottingham to attend the symposium and visit the exhibition during 2015.
First Class: £53.00 per person
Standard Class: £36.50 per person

Travel restrictions:
Valid for all services arriving into London St Pancras at or after 11:00 and for trains departing London St Pancras up until 15:25  at or after 19:25 on weekdays.
If you are making a return journey, you can return on any train over the weekend.

Code to quote when booking: NCM1516

To book the tickets please contact the Sales Team on:
03457 125 678 (option 4)

Terms and conditions.

  • You must have proof you are intending to visit the Castle to obtain this offer.  To do this, please email exhibitions@nottinghamcity.gov.uk and show our automated reply when prompted (via a print out or on a mobile device).
  • Offer only valid for people travelling from Friday 20 November until Sunday 7 February, 2016.
  • These tickets cannot be transferred or re-sold under any circumstances.
  • This ticket must be produced on demand and is not valid if it has been altered in any way.
  • Outward travel must be completed on the date shown on the ticket. No break of journey is allowed.
  • Return travel is valid up to one calendar month from the date of the outbound journey.
  • Seat reservations can be made subject to availability.
  • Tickets are issued subject to the conditions shown in the National Rail Conditions of Carriage.
  • This offer and associated terms have been generously supplied by East Midlands Trains.  Nottingham Castle or Nottingham City Council are not responsible for administering this offer, or any disputes arising from it.