Monday, July 14, 2008

Progress Of Pictorial Photography.

A booklet of which we have recently been the recipients contains an interesting review of the present tendencies in pictorial. Photography in the shape of an interview with Mr. Clarence H. White, one of the prominent exponents of art-through the Medium of the camera in the United States, and the director of a school of photography founded for the purpose of providing systematic instruction in this branch of work. It is not so many years ago that Mr. White appeared before the British photographic public is one of the young men enthusiastic in establishing altogether new ideals and new forms in pictorial photography. The American school, as it was then styled, came in for a large measure of derision, but it has been easy to taco its influence in the exhibitions of pictorial work during the past ten or fifteen years. Equally there has been observed some abandonment in the more extreme features which characterise the early work of these American pioneers; and therefore it is interesting to have Mr. White's conspectus of a stage of progress in which he has taken a notable share. EDS. " B.J "]

“Mr. White, I want to ask you whether you think that pictorial photography has made substantial, or any, progress in America caring the past year? “
«I believe that pictorial photography is progressing, but its progress is not to be expressed in terms of a year. Pictorial photography is expressed more or less in terms of epochs. My observation is that there has been a big growth in well, I cannot say exactly in a year, but in the last four or five years. I may say hat this grows is evident even in places remote and in places there we once heard practically nothing of pictorial photography out find now large group, of very active and earnest workers, most if them producing very high-class work."
"What has been the influence pictorial Photographers of American on photography during the past year? »
“The influence has been one of substantial encouragement. For One thing we have sent to various museums, important exhibitions If photographs. Here is a little incident that came to me a few lies ago that might help to answer your question. A young woman, a member of our organization, was in the Cleveland Art Museum. While she was in the room where our photographs were being shown she saw the director approach with an English artist, and she overheard this conversation. Ashe passed the door the director asked the artist to go in with him and see the exhibition of photographs. The artist protested that he did not care to go in and that he did not believe in it, and that he did not think there was anything in pictorial photography. The director quietly insisted on his going in, saying that he felt very decidedly that there was more real enthusiasm manifested in this exhibition of photographs than there was in a group of etchings that was shown in another room. This is significant of a change of attitude toward photography as an art, and there are about sixteen different museums in which this state of things is being revealed. I have in mind the Newark Museum. They had a collection of these photographs displayed in a most beautiful way in the Newark Public Library, and along with it they showed copies of all known magazines devoted to the subject, with portfolios representing examples of the work of photographers in Europe, and a person who came to view these pictures could then turn to these magazines or portfolios and study them."
“What effect would you say war conditions have had on pictorial Photography? »
“In America the effect on pictorial photography has been, I would say, rather to dampen enthusiasm or to discourage it. There has been a feeling that all activities should be directly connected with the war, and that photography should share in this; that pictorial photography should be devoted to placarding the war or the spirit of the war a sort of war propaganda, rather than purely pictorial work. Abroad, one of the interesting things I have nosed in connection with the catalogue of the Royal Photographic Society exhibition, the oldest photographic organization in the world and the most important one, is that the exhibition reveals very little of war-time activities. They are showing pictorial photographs, technical photographs, Auto chromes, and every branch of photography. The pictorial section had no particular bear the war nor had the Auto chrome or the scientific section. The selection of forty-nine prints loaned by members of the British Military Service formed the only contribution directly pertaining to the war. In the advertisements in this catalogue there was practically no reference to the war and an advertisement of a photographic school in connection with the Regent Street Polytechnic contained no mention "of a war course, but did mention conspicuously their pictorial work."
«Has any development along the lines of what we might call cubistic art got into pictorial photography?”
«Yes, it has gotten into photography to a slight extent, but I am loth to call it cubism or any similar ism. The development of modern art. I think, is in the direction of construction and construction picture construction applies to photography as definitely as it apples to painting and other art. Indeed, a great feeling of the need of this has expressed itself in connection with photography."
"What do you mean by the ' construction ' of a picture? Anything different from the rules of composition as usually understood by artists”
“The rules of composition as usually understood have been too narrow. We might say there are no rules but there are certain fundamentals. These fundamentals have been made to apply in a great variety of ways. Take this print, for instance (Mr. White took up a photograph showing some peculiar architectural effect) here is a little of what we might call cubism in modern photography
We first look at it, and we get pleasure from the play of light and dark n the object. It produces a sense of satisfaction to the eye, and yet when we examine it more closely we feel that the artist has violated the roles of what might be called composition. We must construct oar rules of composition from examples rather than make the construction that is demanded by our art out of formal rules."
“Can commercial or professional photography assimilate pictorial principles? »
«I believe commercial or professional photography should be pictorial. Pictorial photography is (imply a name applied to photography that really has, or should have, construction and expression.”
«Has colour photography a future? Has the Auto chrome a future? "
«I feel that the Auto chrome has already demonstrated its position and the colour print will eventually take a definite position. Processes will be simplified in much a way that it can be used more successfully by the amateur, and the amateur’s work and enthusiasm are necessary to its development."
“Has platinum paper been in the market during the past year?"
«Black platinum paper practically disappeared from the market, but sepia platinum paper has been obtainable."
“What is the best substitute for platinum paper?"
"The Barmen Journal or Photography a recognized technical publication devoted to photography, has said that printing de lure should be done on platinum or palladium, which are absolutely permanent papers. Carbon is also in be clawed with these as permanent There is no real substitute for these papers, and I trust that they will eventually be again available "
"What do you think of the bromide papers made on Japan tissue?'
“I think they have produced very beautiful results."
"Is bromide paper the best available paper of the future for pictorial effects?"
"Bromide prints are most beautiful, and the quality of some bromide prints that we see is such that it is difficult to distinguish them from platinum, which is surely the greatest compliment we can pay them."
"Can the bromoil process ever be used except by expert workers with a gift of patience?"
"I find that the bromoil process is often used by people who are not experts, but amateurs with a desire to achieve a good photographic result. To be an expert, of course, would help very materially in producing this result. There are very few expert bromoil printers."
"Has the ' gum print ' passed? If so, what has taken its place as a medium of expression for workers who think they have something to express that is beyond straight photography? "
"I think the ' gum print' has not passed and is not likely to, but to become really of greater interest as time goes on."
"Are as many gum prints' seen in exhibitions now as formerly? »
“No. The reason. I think, is that some of the best workers in the medium are not interested particularly in showing their work in exhibition”
Mr. White here turned to some choice gum prints that were hanging on the walls and pointed out their good points.
"Is carbon paper now used to any extent? »
“Carbon paper is still available, and is still used, but not so much by the commercial photographers, and is probably a little less by the pastoralists because of the introduction of new processes like oil and bromoil ; but many workers have continued to new, and still use it with admirable results”
"Has ' home photography ' had any growth in popularity during the year? »
«Probably the greatest development of photography is in home photography or home-portraiture. During the lat five or six years practically every professional obliged to introduce home portraiture.
"Have there been any notable inventions in photography during the year? »
“I want to make a confession the inventions in photography are not of so much me as the development of the inventions that are still to be perfected.”
“Has the so-called» fuzzy school ' made any converts during the year, or is the tendency to go back to sharp, or sharper, prints? »
“I don’t think there is a tendency to go back to sharp or a sharper print but there has been, or there is getting to be, a better understanding of the loft focus lens."
“Has the pictorial school of photography had any influence on what may be called the chief field of photography, in its larger aspects, at present the moving-picture drama? »
«I feel that probably there pictorial photography has it greatest influence. We furl very 1 few serious film producers who do not study very carefully the construction of their pictures and the lighting of them, together with the proper motion-picture appeal the appeal of the acting They are really looking for all expressions of light and varieties of focus that the pictorial photographer has been interested in.''
"It is said that D. O. Hill, the Scotch artist, who for a while practiced photography with genuinely pictorial results, used paper negatives. Was his success due in any measure to this fact? "
"I don't think it handicapped him and in many instances I feel that it contributed to the simplification of his portraits."
"Do you recommend the use of colour filters in pictorial work? »
“I do”
“Do you recommend fast or slow plates for pictorial work? What about films ' "
"I would prefer to use whenever possible, a slow plate. Films eventually. I believe, will be the only thing used, though not necessarily film packs or roll films."
"Do you mean that the glass plate will be discarded and cut most be used! Is not the fact that most practical (photographers and a great advantage in Ming plates? '
“Of course the advantage of the glass plate is that it is easier to handle out a good thick celluloid film is almost as easy to handle and these films are mainly filed. They are not breakable (and they are being made now in all the various emulsions. Their great advantage is in their lack of weight and their non-halation qualities. A great many photographers use burdened -with plates and the filing and adoring o( them become a .big problem."
“Have any improvements in cameras been made during the year!”
"As I see it cameras have been improved in the direction of the need of the pictorial photographer in that they have longer bellows extension and larger front-boards and are constructed for stability.
As the photographer is working more and more in the open, this is necessary."
“What kind of a camera do you recommend for pictorial works?'
“Personally I feel that every photographer should first learn to photograph with a view camera. As his work develops he finds that it is a matter of getting his inspiration from incidents of life rather than building up his compositions in front of a view camera. Here is where the reflex camera is a great help.''
“Then you recommend the reflex type of camera for serious pictorial work? »
"Yes, I do."
“Would you fit type of camera with a soft-focus lens?”
“Yes, and also with an anastigmatic"
"Have any new lenses been put on the market in 1918? »
“Nose that I know of."
"What do you think of the use of the soft-focus lens generally in pictorial work? »
"I think if pictorial photography were suddenly robbed of the with focus lens it would be a catastrophe."
"Can the same results be secured with the anastigmatic lens by throwing it slightly out of focus?’
"No, for the results obtained with the soft-focus lens are due to its construction."
"What size camera do yon recommend for pictorial work? »
"I think the tendency of the pictorial worker has been to use too large a view camera. It has been demonstrated that size does not determine the artistic value of a picture. I would recommend a camera that is not a burden to the person using it."
"Do you recommend workers to make enlargements from a small sized negative for exhibition purposes? And, if so, what size enlargement do you prefer? "
"I should feel that the work above 11 x 14 is a mistake generally, And that a picture can be just as beautiful and in the long run more beautiful when it is kept within the dimensions of the whole plate ' 6½ x 8½ ins."
“Do you recommend the working up of negatives for pictorial effect?”
“My preference is for photographs that have not been worked up. but if a man in successful in doing this to the extent of losing sight of the manipulation in the compacted picture I see no reason why it should not be done, and I think it has been done with success by some good workers."
“Do you object generally, to manipulation or ' dodging ' of prints or negatives as tending to produce hybrid results?"
"I feel that the practice of doctoring negatives is a bail one, but to achieve a result, if it is well done, it may be justifiable."
"What is the mind approved fashion of mounting prints this year!”
"The most approved fashion is the one that was established many years ago in the presentation of etchings and engravings a white or slightly towel mat sometimes with a ' countersunk centre.' "
“Do you think that an ambitious amateur who desires to do good work can best improve his methods by studying exhibitions, or by studying books on art aim composition? "
“I should say that the by the broke on art and composition are of little value without the exhibitions and that if worked together the book is made more valuable by the exhibition and the exhibition more valuable by the look but the combination is absolutely necessary to achieve result. The tendency very often is that in continued study of books or an exhibition rather satisfies the worker, and he does not devote himself to his own problems of creative work."
"What is the greatest, weakness in the work of the young photographer and how can he best overcome it? "
"I think the greatest weakness of the young worker is the lack of something to express. He is too much interested in the photo- graph for the sake of the photograph alone that is, in the medium or in the taking of the photograph itself. The photograph should is press something."
"Just what do you mean, Mr. White, by 'expressing some thing’? "
"You get down to a very important point. The expression in a photograph may come from what we might call the design of the photograph or the distribution of light and dark to produce a visual sensation, just as a fine rug or piece of lace gives us a satisfaction in design, an expression in design. We can also introduce that into the making of a portrait, and embody not only a representation of the person's features, but create at the same time an interesting design or a better distribution of the parts of a portrait to make it convincing and definite."
"Do you mean that an amateur should go out into the fields with a preconceived idea of finding something to express, of making a pattern or doing something ' original ‘? "
"He should go out into the fields with an open eye and open mind to be moved to an expression of his appreciation of pattern, his appreciation of tone, of values, etc. Let him leave the mind open, and that will tell him what to express. He gets his inspiration from Nature, and he contributes to Nature just so much as he has of knowledge of photography, knowledge of composition, knowledge of tone values he expresses himself that way. I do not believe he should go with a preconceived idea of what he is going to get. He should be moved by his subject. If he is not, he will become blind to the most beautiful aspects of Nature. That is the interesting thing of Nature; the changing light and shadow arc never twice the same. The light is continually changing, and he has combinations and variations that a man with a preconceived idea will miss, and in photography that is the most impressive thing that it can record those subtleties."
"Do you recommend workers to send only new photographs to the exhibitions? In other words, should a worker try to get new subjects continually, or send his older, and perhaps better, work in more limited amount?"
"It would be better to send his older work and keep the new photographs- at home until he has studied them carefully."
"Do you regard photography as giving fair scope to the art impulse in people who have that impulse but are -unable to devote their time to painting, etching, or other graphic art?»
"The question really expresses the idea that photography is supposed to be taken up when they cannot do the other thing, which I feel is a mistake. Photography is an expression, not necessarily as important or vital as the others, but it is an expression, and it can be used along with the others as 'well .as alone."
"In other words, you feel that photography islands on its own merits? »
"I feel that it stands on its own merits absolutely."
"What, in your opinion, is -the distinction between an amateur and a professional photographer? »
"I think the distinction between the amateur and professional photographer is difficult to draw. The greatest distinction that I can see is when the word amateur is applied so that it reveals the love of the amateur for his 'work rather than the sense of the duties involved in it. That is what the amateur gets out of the work; the professional's aim is too often .what the can get out of it in the sale of his products."
"Can the pictorial photographer make a living in America under present conditions, or is the photographer who wishes to make a fair income to be recommended to confine himself to so-called 'com aerial ' or 'professional' work?"
“Being a pictorial photographer does not necessarily prevent this making a living. The pictorial photographer, if he is a good one, is naturally concerned -more in .producing a result than in marketing the result; and as a consequence sometimes he suffers. The pictorial photographer in reality ought to be a financial success, for the tendency is strongly toward the development of the work in that direction."
“Will the ending of the war have a favorable effect on 'the future of pictorial photography and on the pictorial photographers of America? »
"I should say very decidedly yes. It will naturally liberate a great many repressed spirits, and the very liberation will express it self by bringing the worker in closer touch with nature, and the results will show this. I feel that the development after the war is going to be in the direction of art expression. As a specific instance, my own ton, which was sick and tired of photography in general, has manifested greater interest in ft since he has been in the Army in
France, through coming in contact with the old chateaux and the interesting art treasures that are has seen. He has developed a greater respect not only for art, but for photography; and this angle instance has doubtless been repeated in thousands of cases on the part of oar soldiers in France."

No comments: