Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Practicus In The Studio: Portable Studios.

         Рarticles of this series, in which the aim of the writer is to communicate items of a long experience in studio portraiture, have appeared weekly since the beginning of the present year. It is not thought possible to continue the series to the length of that by the same writer which ran through the "British Journal" some years ago, but if any reader among the younger generation of photographers, and particularly those engaged as assistants, has a particular subject which might be dealt with, his or her suggestion will be welcomed. The subjects of the previous articles of the series have been as follows:


         The term "portable" has a wide range of meaning when applied to a photographic studio. It may mean a caravan on wheels, a wooden building which can easily be taken to pieces and erected elsewhere, a specially designed tent, or even a temporary shelter for the sitter and background, the camera and operator being in the open.
         Studios in the first category that is to say, of the caravan type are now not as common as they used to be in the early collodion days, when many villages, and even small towns, had no photographer domiciled in them. There are, I believe, some which travel along with roundabouts, wild beasts, and fat ladies from fair to fair throughout the country, but I have not seen one for a good many years. Some of them were quite elaborate affairs, fitted up not only for glass positive and ferrotype work, but for printing on albumenized paper, the work often comparing favorably with that issued by many fixed studios. It may puzzle those who have never seen one to imagine how sufficient space was obtained, but this was easily done by adopting a telescopic form of construction, an inner body sliding out and being supported upon trestles.
         The form which will probably be of most interest to the majority of my readers is not a studio that is here to-day and gene to-morrow, 'but one which is intended to remain in one place for months, if not for years, but which can, if needed, be removed and re-erected at small cost, and by unskilled labour. Such studios are usually made entirely of wood and glass, and their portability is due to the fact that there is no general framework, but that the whole is built up in panels, which are fastened together with ordinary iron bolts and nuts. I will endeavor to give some idea of their construction, which is quite simple and well within the powers of the village carpenter, or even of an amateur who has some idea of wood working. The first thing to be decided upon is the size and, this being done, a drawing should be made and the size of the panels settled. It is necessary to be very careful in constructing these that they should be exactly the size that they are supposed to be, or there will be a lot of unnecessary work when it comes to fitting together. The design is usually the ridge-roof one, somewhat after the pattern of Noah's ark without the barge. For a studio 20 x 12 by 8 ft. (to the eaves) and 11 ft. to the ridge the following divisions will be convenient: - Each end is in two sections 6 ft. wide, one side being 8 ft. long and the other 11 ft. long. The two pairs of panels are exactly alike, exactly that one will probably hare the door frame fitted into it. It must not be forgotten to the frames on the proper sides when nailing on the boarding, or they will hare to be remade. I mention this because I have known three right-hand sections and one left-hand made, instead of two of each. The sides are made in four sections, each 5 ft. wide and 8. ft. high,. Six of these are entirely covered with wood, and two have a crow-bar, say, 4 ft. up. Below this, wood is nailed on; above are sash-bars for the side- light. The roof calls also for sax wooden panels and two which are frames only, fitted with sash-ban for the top light. These are all 5 ft. wide an I about 7 ft. long, so as to give a slight overhang at the eaves. The edges which met at the ridge should be beveled so as to give a good bearing. For a studio of this size the frames of the panels should be made of 4 x 3 deal and the boarding should be good yellow I matching. The frames may be mortised if the extra labour is not objected to, but "haired" joints answer quite wall, as the boarding has to do its part in keeping the panels square; good cut nails should be used for fastening. The side and end panels should each have a crossbar half-way up, as not only does this stiffen the construction, but it keeps the boarding from warping. In all the panels the framing comes inside the studio, and the panels are fastened together by drilling holes in which the bolts fit well, and without shake in the frames, so that, when laid side by side, they are drawn closely together. In the end sections the bolts run through the boarding as well as the frame, and are tightened up in the sane way as the side joints. It is perhaps hardly necessary to say that the woodwork should all be erected before the glass is put in the sashes, and that, in raw of removal, the glass should be taken out before anything else is done.
         Having made all our panels, we can assemble them. First the two ends are pat together, and then the sides joined up to their full length. The bark should next be joined to the ends, then the front fixed in, and finally Ike roof sections put up in pairs and screwed through on to the tops of the frames. Although not always done, it is a good plan to put one or more tie rods across at the level of the eaves to prevent any outward thrust. These should be ¾ in. to 1 in. in diameter, threaded at the ends with a good large nut put on both sides of the top of the side frames through which the rod goes.
         The flooring is made in panels the width of the studio, and drops upon the lower part of the frame. There should be same arrangement of joists or brick piers to prevent vibration and sagging.
The roof will require a waterproof covering. This may corrugate or the asphalt roofing material known as Ruberoid or if obtainable, Uralits which is fireproof may be used. This is a sort of asbestos and platter composition, and would keep (fee studio cooler than iron. It has the merits of not rusting and requiring no paint.
         A building erected in the above way will not keep in condition long if placed directly upon the ground; therefore, some foundation which will keep the lower part dry moat be provided. For a reason to be presently given this should be of a temporary character, and on which we found very successful was a row of loose bricks all round, the exact sue of the studio with two rows at equal distances running from end to end inside. Upon these bricks rested low long deal. 20 ft long and 3x9 section; the sides of die studio stood upon this, awl there was sufficient apace between the bricks for sir to circulate freely below A studio so erected was taken down, after nine years, and was found to be quite sound, as were also the long timbers.
         If one is building upon another person's land it is necessary to be very careful to do nothing that will give the landlord a claim to the building. If a studio or greenhouse is erected upon a brick foundation which forms an integral part of it, the whole at once comes under the control of the landlord, and the tenant cannot legally remove it. It has been held in the case of a lean-to greenhouse that the driving of iron hold- fasts into the wall of a dwelling-house to secure part of the framework removed the structure from the category of “tenant's fixtures," and made it a part of the freehold.
         The foregoing description is necessarily of a sketchy nature, but I shall be pleased to fill in any details in the "Answers to Correspondents" column in case of need.
         Tent studios are not much in favour in this country as there is no possibility of using glass as part of the covering, and there is no waterproof material which will retain its whiteness for any appreciable period. Celluloid is, of course, out of the question, on account of its cost and inflammability. The most elaborate tent studio I have seen was one sold by the Stereoscopic Company a quarter of a century ago. It consisted of a wooden skeleton of the ordinary ridge-roof form. The parts usually solid in a permanent studio were covered with tightly stretched sail canvas; the top and side lights were without any permanent covering, and were fitted with dark and light roller blinds of the usual type. This wan necessarily a rather costly affair and a much simpler arrangement could be constructed with an ordinary small marquee as a basis. If an opening were cut in a suitable position and a light wooden frame, or frames, fitted with wires and festoon blinds put in, quite a useful studio could be made. Some years ago a woven wire roofing the meshes being filled with a transparent varnish, was placed upon the market; it was tried for studio lighting, but being rather yellow, caused the exposures to be too long. Now that plates are three times as fast it might be worth trying it again, if it is still made. I have often thought that a serviceable studio might be made upon what is known as the turned principle that is to say a comparatively short square compartment for the sitter and background and a small tunnel or passage without light for the camera and operator, idea could be worked out in the form of a tent, and would have the great advantage of being economical of material and presenting the minimum area to wind pressure It would not be difficult to arrange such a studio so that an ordinary- shower need not interrupt work.
         So-called "lawn" studios are merely devices for balding a background and curtains for cutting off the worst of the top and side light. Houghton's used to list a very neat arrangement of this type. It is, however, very easy to improvise something of the sort with four tent-poles and cords, a background and some lengths of light and dark materials for curtains. All that has to be done is to fix the four poles at the corners of an 8 ft., or smaller, square, to run a cord round the tops, steady the whole with the ordinary ropes and pegs, and hang the background on whichever side suits the light. The lengths of material are hung over the top cord to serve as studio curtains. One friend of mine had four clothes post sockets fixed in his garden at the proper distances for a studio of this sort, and could drop the posts in rig up the curtains, and get to work in less than ten minutes.


No comments: