In dealing with power as expressed in lines, it is our duty to consider carefully the subject before us, to analyze the lines it offers and choose out of the number one that is essentially descriptive. Then that so carefully chosen line should be placed on the picture surface in such a manner that it will convey to others the degree of forcefulness we feel. In Fig. 58 the plain photograph of a man puzzles us when we try to discover the leading line. Every contour being equally sharp there is an absence of accent; the usual infinitesimal rendering of detail so destructive to picture quality is forced upon us. Compare it with Fig. 59. Here the detail being somewhat suppressed permits us to give attention to the contour. In Fig. 79, line A, no longer monotonously crude and unrestrained as in Fig. 58, is transformed into the leading line merely by introducing in the background a vertical to connect the upper frame with the other shoulder. B has a diversion in line C and is thereby made secondary to line A. Notice the effect upon the personality of the sitter; in Fig. 58 the head is alone in a meaningless space, it asserts itself vulgarly, feels posed and congealed. In Fig. 59 the figure has animation and life, the face is full of interest, the background is no longer a vague emptiness, but explains itself. It has become useful. If line C were to appear above the other shoulder, — Fig. 80, its introduction would change the facial expression. Under certain circumstances this change might prove useful. The placing of these lines is aided by feeling; their subtle influences so puzzling to the inexperienced prove fascinating to maturer workers.
Turn to illustration 93. What is the leading line ? All are prominent, each practically unrestrained; if the eye becomes engaged with line B, - Fig. 81, it finds D disputing with it, — the latter having more force-fulness. At the same time A is strong enough to receive a large share of our interest, and between these contentions our feeling dies and our thought is dulled. In Fig. 82, B and D have been modified by the new line E, our interest has been drawn from the frame inward, and is now engaged with the figure. This point having been reached, we are made to feel a main line A. It is well chosen as it points to the height of the figure, giving a majestic quality to the pose. B is now an accompaniment to A; it supports without disputing. Thus controlled, B is made very effective as a picture element and expressive of dignified movement in the figure. In this way the warring interests are brought into some harmony, — Fig. 94.
Fig. 1 and Fig. 83, when compared, will show the great difference between the results of plain photography with its artificial background and of camera work pictorially treated by the correct use of lines. In Fig. 1 the woman has evidently retreated to the wall and is at a standstill mentally and physically; the background protrudes itself at her expense. The same figure, absolutely unchanged, is transformed into a refined picture in Fig. 83. The woman has character. We do not question her action, pose or surroundings; she is a presence, intimate and yet reserved. There is a suggestion of plentiful space, of air and light. The background in no way obtrudes itself, it is sympathetic, supporting her by its lines, playing with the tones of her figure. What chiefly characterizes this picture above its "plain" ancestor is the embodiment of "movement," the selection of lines for "power." In the pen sketch, - Fig. 84, line A is too despotic, B as accented by contrasting light and shade, is wooden and stolid. Together with D (also a too rigid line) it makes a structure more fitted to uphold an inert concrete mass than the frail delicate form of the human being. Line C is accented in a manner that makes it impossible for our attention to rest with the head. The ornamental curves marked G have no influence for good upon the lines of the figure, nor is there any cohesion between the frame and the inner line-happenings.
A very different problem presents itself for analysis in Fig. 85. Here all is so managed that our eye, noting the rich sweep of the gown, is carried by "movement," steadily and pleasantly to the face. Line B does not dominate but is here subordinated, giving to line L the leading interest. There is such difference of accentuation between L and A that they move harmoniously upward. The strong accent on the outline of the well-lighted sleeve is a powerful factor in causing a due subordination of B, L, and A, while this line of the sleeve, in order to be under control, is approached, but not touched, by line P. P and J also extend toward A, and restrict its power by diversion. The means of effectually subduing line B is found in F and E, two verticals drawing the overcharged interest of the figure toward the left and upward. The frame-line M has come into the thorough planning of this structure, for it foils and quiets the long lines E and F. C is introduced to give the figure height, K and D to add to the movement.
Compared with the foregoing elaborate composition, Fig. 86 is easily solved. The problem presented is frequently tried by camera workers who, not understanding the power and force of lines, seek force by the single factor of extreme contrasting tones. In this picture there are practically no lines that have any power when compared with the white mass forming the face, beard, etc. Nothing prepares us for this exhibition of force, yet forcefulness is not attained. That quality comes by restraining the pictorial elements, — the light masses, dark masses and lines, — and causing them to act in unison. Compare it with the charming way in which Fig. 87 has led up to the climax. In Fig. 86 our greatest energy is expended in the oval outline of the beard, hair, forehead, cheek. So emphasized is this, owing to the lack of a check to stop the rotating action of the eyes, that the features sink into obscurity.
In Fig. 87 the line of the shoulder (see line A, in Fig. 88) has firmness and leads toward the face. The line made by the forehead and hat is the most forceful and is well chosen as it draws the attention upward, throwing the emphasis near the eye socket, round which the interest is made to circle by rhythmic movement. Line C prevents B from becoming too powerful and pressing too heavily and sharply upon the face. D further lifts the interest upward into a space that must be vitalized if it is not to become a dead member in the picture construction. Left blank or weak, the upper and dark portions would assume such prominence that character-rendering in the face could end only in caricature. Observe how line D leads off from C with some firmness, then subsides into a gentle curving movement that draws the eye around and back to the face, accomplishing two offices, first, making vital, luminous, and intelligible the upper part of the picture, second, bringing the interest back to its centre. After leaving line D the eye considers the form of the features and rests with that section holding the mass of light. Other elements of diversion are found in the tones of the beard and the deflections in the background that keep the interest from being overcharged.