Henry Peach Robinson became interested in photography after visiting the Great Exhibition of 1851. Trained in the fine arts, he exhibited an oil painting at the annual exhibition of the Royal Academy in 1852. He continued painting while experimenting with the daguerreotype and calotype processes in the early 1850s. After a visit from Dr. Hugh Diamond in 1854, Robinson decided to adopt photography as his profession. He opened a studio in 1857 and was elected to the Photographic Society of London. The following year he created his elaborate combination print "Fading Away," which created a sensation when it was exhibited at the Crystal Palace. The photographs Robinson produced were composed in the style of classical paintings in an attempt to prove that photography could meet the standards of the Academy.
Robinson's arguments for photography's recognition as a fine art filled the pages of photographic journals for nearly four decades. He wrote for English and American journals including the Journal of the Photographic Society, The Practical Photographer, Humphrey's Journal, British Journal of Photography, and Photographic News. He published 11 books, including the popular Pictorial Effect in Photography, printed four times from 1869 to 1893. His theories on artistic photography were rejected by Peter Henry Emerson and others who argued for "pure" photography; nevertheless, he became a leader of the Linked Ring Brotherhood and an important influence for turn-of-the-century Pictorialists such as Heinrich Kühn and Clarence White.
Robinson was elected vice-president of the Royal Photographic Society in 1887, and an Honorary Fellow in 1890.