Pictorialism was a photographic movement dating from the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that sought to elevate the photograph to the status of painting or drawing

By 1845 cameras were so easy to operate that a debate began as to whether photography could be considered art, arguing that in reality it was simply a mechanical copying device. As a result a number of photographers began to experiment with highly technical processes in order to create images that looked more like paintings. These photographers played with light and shade, creating pictures that were atmospheric and mysterious. As many of the photographers who promoted pictorialism had originally trained as artists, like Alvin Langdon Coburn, Alfred Stieglitz and Oscar Gustave Rejlander, they understood the lexicon of painting and strove to reproduce these ideas in photographic form.