Emerson's acknowledged masterpiece, this quiet photograph demonstrates his theory of "naturalistic" photography. It shows rural people in an everyday activity typical of their simple and honest way of life. The soft light, spontaneous pose, and natural surroundings are far removed from artificial studio setups.(p)Emerson believed that creative photography should mimic the way the eye sees. To concentrate attention on the couple in the rowboat, he focused the center of the image sharply but allowed softening at the edges. He called his method "differential focusing." By printing many of his images (including this one) on platinum paper instead of the usual silver paper, Emerson produced great subtleties in the middle tones. (p)Emerson was a leader in 19th-century English photography and the author of a controversial book. Naturalistic Photography (1889). Many of his pictures were published in books as photogravures. The delicate images yielded by the photogravure process resembled his platinum prints. (p)The American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson was a distant (and much older) relative of Peter Henry Emerson.