The Sessionists of the late 19th and early 20th century where those committed to the notion that photography could be elevated to high art. Many factors fuelled the movement but central to it was the Pictorialists' belief in personal expression rather than a literal depiction of the world as the purpose of photography.
The emphasis was on tone rather than detail; on atmosphere rather than fact. By their means they could transform the rough edges of then modern life into quiet reverie. For the pictorialist the choice of photographic print process was a fundamental tool for interpreting an image and enhancing the aesthetic experience of it.
A sceptical view sees pictorialism as a response to the popularization of photography that came with the simplification of the process. The introduction of a complex printing effort into the process both separates practitioners from the amateur and compensates the initial mechanical step elevating the results to art. Strand would later show this not to be the case with the introduction of Straight Photography.
May be in the context of the industrialization of all things at the time, handcraft was something endearing that was to be held on to. Many, but not all, pictorialists represented their subjects in a manner fashioned after traditional styles of the painters; often a very sentimental and nostalgic portrayal of events. A little much for me.
Yet, some of the fundamental notions persist, notably that of the abstraction of fact to expression.