This section is from the book "Modern Photography In Theory And Practice", by By Henry G. Abbott. Also available from Amazon: Modern photography in theory and practice: A hand book for the amateur.
Ridiculous and seemingly impossible results are some-imes achieved by means of the camera and the manipu-ation of the subject or plate. Every amateur is doubt-ess familiar with the class of pictures which show the subject with distorted feet but it is not every photo of his class which is a success and it is seldom that we see an example in which the entire picture is in focus. To take even a good "freak" picture one must thoroughly understand the underlying principles and must have the proper apparatus. The accompanying illustration was made from a photograph of considerable merit which was taken by Mr. L. L. Northup, South Haven, Mich. It will be noted that every portion of this picture is in focus, from the heels of the rubber boots to the magazine which the boy is reading. This photo was made by placing the subject on an incline. The lens used was a short focus, wide angle one, stopped down to f 16, with an exposure of ten seconds, under a skylight. The plate used was a 26 x Seed.
Very curious and ridiculous effects may be produced by taking a photograph in the usual way, developing, fixing and washing and then while the film of the plate is still wet, heating it before the fire or gas burner until the coating is ready to run in any direction. Now by tilting the negative one way and another and thus distorting the image, most ridiculous results follow. Portraits, groups and street scenes are particularly applicable for this form of freak. In portraits the faces can be distorted in every conceivable manner while well-known public buildings can be made to assume the appearance of having passed through a terrible earthquake. So-called ghost photographs are easily made. A person wrapped in a sheet is placed in front of the camera for a second or two, the exposure made, the lens capped, the person walks away and the lens is again uncapped and the balance of the exposure made. The result will be an indistinct shadowy image of the "ghost," through which the drapery or furniture of the room can be seen, giving the transparent effect which is attributed to ghosts. Comical effects may be produced by showing two persons playing cards at a table, while the ghost is seen standing behind or beside one of the figures, holding up a warning finger. In photographing in this way it is essential that the figures do not change position between the first and second exposures, except the person who is impersonating the ghost.
Very good imitations of oil paintings may be made in a similar manner. The person whose portrait is to be made is placed behind a large sized gold frame, one large enough to show the head and shoulders of the sitter. A piece of coarse canvas is secured and is painted brown or a neutral color with distemper, or you can purchase a piece of brown canvas at almost any dry-goods store, the variety of goods which ladies use for outing skirts and known as duck. The canvas is stretched on a rough wooden frame and placed immediately behind the sitter. You now focus the sitter sharply, expose the plate in the usual manner, close the lense and plate hold per and remove the latter, being careful to note which is the side of the plate holder used. The sitter is now removed and you re-focus so that the grain of the canvas comes up sharply on the ground glass. Again insert the plate holder and finish the exposure. The result will be a negative which will very closely resemble an oil painting which has been photographed, for the grain of the canvas will appear all over that portion of he picture which appears inside the frame, even showi-ng on the light portions of the face. It is sometimes desirable to show wo views of a person on one nega-ive, as a full face and a profile and ret show no dividing mark where the wo exposures meet. This can easily be effected by means of the duplicator which is shown in Fig. 36. The du-plicator can easily be made as follows: Select a card-board pill box or a small tin box which will fit over the ront of your lens. With a pair of compasses draw a circle on the bottom of it about the size of the lens and cut away a section about equal to one-fourth of the circle. Use this as a cap for your lens and note the effect when viewing a scene on the ground glass. If the scene just covers one-half of the ground glass then the aperture is correct but if it covers less than a half you may have to cut away a third or gradually increase the opening. The size of the opening depends on the distance between the ground glass and the lens. If a figure, the person will have to be posed a little to one side of the camera. You focus and the exposure is then made in the ordinary way. The lens is then capped or the shutter closed and the plate holder removed. The duplicator is now turned so that the opening comes opposite the other half of the lens and by means of the ground glass you can see that it is in the right position. The plate holder is again inserted and the exposure made on the other half of the plate, the person in the meantime posing a little to the other side of the camera. To do the work nicely, the ground glass should be divided exactly in the center by means of a pencil mark, so that you know that the two pictures just meet in the center. The duplicator can be turned so as to throw the image on any part of the plate and many humorous pictures can be made in this way. For example two persons, who have never met in life, can be made to appear as sitting opposite one another at a table playing cards, or a person can be made to appear as though he were playing cards with his double.
The same effect can be secured by dividing the camera at the back, close to the grooves in which the plate holders slide, by means of a piece of tin, just half the size of the plate but this is not easily done with hand cameras. The tin is held in place at the bottom by two thumb tacks and at the top by a swivel button. The exposure is made on one half the plate, the tin shifted over and the other half is then exposed. Another method is to cover half the dry plate with a piece of black paper or cardboard, make an exposure and then shift the paper so the other half of the plate is exposed. The Ideal Duplicator is an instrument built on the principle of the one first described, being a metal box with a section of a circle cut away. It is very inexpensive, costing but twenty-five cents. Fig. 37 illustrates the Multiplex Device which is furnished with the Adlake Cameras, for making two or four views on one plate. One of the most ridiculous pictures of this class that we have ever seen depicted is a man in the act of viewing his own head which was stuck on a candlestick on the table before him. Those who are familiar with stage tricks will readily recognize that such a photo and many others of its class are readily made by the employment of a mirror and the above described duplicator.