221. Taste must be exercised In the choice and use of backgrounds and accessories by the would-be superior portraitist There can be no rule to guide him in their selection, except his judgment and feeling and the requirements of his patrons. Plain and fancy backgrounds, and plain and fancy accessories are both needed. Your manufacturer and dealer will sometimes be able to guide you in their selection, and assist you. Consult the first lesson of this work, follow its injunctions and you will scarcely blunder. A plain, tidy carpet, or rug, will complete the furniture of your studio, and fully equip you for work.
222. Frequently, the background is about the last thing the photographer seems to think of; but it should be one of the first, for the reason
221. The power behind the throne in many of the composition pictures which have attracted the attention of the public is the background - silent, substantial, powerful, exerting a deep and ofttimes mysterious and unrecognized influence over the products of the knight of the camera. Atmosphere, delicacy, refinement, strength, vigor, elaborations, balance of light and shade are imparted by the background. It indicates the hour of the day, morning, evening, starlight, moonlight, and leads the subject by the sea-shore, up the mountain height, through the garden, or over fields of snow and ice, surrounds him with the evidences of luxury and cultivated taste, or the extreme of poverty and simple wants, helps to tell the many incidents of every - day life, records the triumphs of the stage, and is ever susceptible of new and untried forms; in fact, affords the widest range to photographic-representation and to the play of the artist's imagination. - L. W. Seavey..
By many operators the background is considered of but little importance, but by the thinking, successful worker, a thorough knowledge of its uses is considered of as much importance as the knowledge of chiaro-oscuro or photographic chemistry. And our most feeling and finest photographers are not only well informed in the foregoing, but also possess a certain knowledge (whether they know it or not) of anatomy, physiognomy, and phrenology. And my humble advice to the hungry photographer, who seats himself down to the table of photographic literature, now so bountifully spread, is to call for a few of these last - mentioned side dishes, and do not leave them for the last courses, either. - W.H.Tipton
222. In regard to the relief of figures, objects contrasted with a light background wil appear much more detached than those placed against a dark one. Those parts which are farthest from the light will remain the darkest, and every distinction of outline will be lost that it has very much to do with the general effect of the picture. Now what is a background for? Very evidently, in the first place, to shield improper objects from appearing in the picture. What difference does it make, if any sort of an object does appear in the picture? "Well, the aforesaid object might not harmonize with the subject, and would not perhaps give the proper relief to the figure. "Well, now, we have hit it. It is the latter reason that we wish to bear more particularly upon. The former has been borne so long, and many photographers seem so impregnated and saturated with the idea that a background has nothing to do with the figure, but is only to serve to hide the objects behind it, that it is almost impossible to filter or dissolve it out of them.
It is relief that we want, in both senses - relief from the old, stupid way, and relief for the figure. Sitters should not be planted up against a flat nonentity, as plaster is "thrown" upon a wall, looking as if they were going to slide downwards and forwards. The figure should stand out in relief like a marble statue. Much of this effect must be secured by proper lighting, but not all, for the background does its full share when it is a well chosen one.
"With one plain distemper background, not very dark, you can manage to get some very nice effects; not very dark, because you can shade such a one, but you cannot lighten a dark one very well. You can secure gradation by using your background placed at an angle to your lens, or you can, by the careful arrangement of a curtain at one side, shade it gradually so as to get a similar effect.
In placing the figure, of course you know that the shadow side should be against the light part of the background, and vice versa. Again, that the shade should be increased or diminished according to the complexion of the subject. Work by contraries.
223. By the choice and use of the backgrounds, the real talent of the in the general mass of shadows; and unless they have their reflexes, they will either cut hard upon the ground, or appear to become a part of it. All bodies being surrounded by light and shade, the artist may so arrange his figures that the dark side will fall upon a light ground, and the light side upon a dark ground. This arrangement serves to detach the figure, and, at the same time, contributes to harmony of effect. The reflected lights will be more or less apparent in proportion as they are seen against a darker or brighter ground, because of the force of contrast. Reflected lights may be so thrown as to modify the force of a cast shadow. - M. A. Dwight.
223. Fuseli says, " By the choice and scenery of backgrounds, we are frequently enabled to judge how far a painter entered into his subject; whether he understood its nature; to photographer is often discovered. They may be too obtrusive, attracting the attention of the eye first, and distracting it from the portrait prop they may not harmonize with the age is, character,and general appearance of the model, and their color and lighting may also prove ignorance on the part of the artist who introduced them into the picture.
Again, if they are "fancy" back grounds, they may be so placed in relation to the sitter as to produce some ridiculous incongruites. 224. 'Fancy" backgrounds, are called, an such as are painted to rapresent some scene or "bit" in nature, art, history, etc., and are in the more pretentions, class-of portraits. When they harmonize with the principal object in the picture, namely, the living model, they serve an excellent purpose. and relieve the dull monotony which would be caused by the constant use of a "plain" "background. The figures upon them should usually be represented with much less distinctness than the accessories and the model, and the whole of the former should be subordinate to the latter.