A style of photography and imagery based on an application of the principles of fine art, and, in particular, on ideas of beauty and nature deriving from the Picturesque. It is an approach to photography that emphasizes beauty of subject matter, tonality, and composition rather than the documentation of reality. Although specifically identified in the late 19th century and the early 20th, the underlying aesthetic was a response to the ongoing debate about photography’s scientific and artistic status.
Pictorialists in the United States included Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, and in the late work of Stieglitz, Paul Strand, and Edward Weston.
By the late 1920s, as the aesthetics of Modernism took hold, the term Pictorialism came to describe a tired convention. There was also a movement away from the “beautiful” in all art, as a reaction to the horrors that were seen in World War I .