This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
Pictures, books and music all have charms to soothe and help one to forget the worriments and cares of life. People with different temperaments take to one or the other of these, accordingly as their tastes run to literature, art, or music. One of the leading art critics of the country says: "You must look at pictures studiously, earnestly, honestly. It will take years before you can come to a full appreciation of art; but when at last you have it, you will be possessed of one of the purest, loftiest and most ennobling pleasures that the civilized world can offer you."
Good photographs, like good people, have individual character and charm. In analyzing pictures, the purpose should be to increase our understanding and appreciation of what is admirable in them. The structural lines enclosing the areas and the beautifully proportioned parts of light and dark, form the elements of beauty in most pictures. Just as one needs to cultivate a good literary taste to rightly appreciate fine literature, so also should you have the right ideals of art to properly enjoy pictures. The province of all picture study is to lead one to discover the application and use of art principles. These things do not simply happen in the picture, the artist aims consciously to produce beauty. The balance of the parts, the beauty of the light and dark masses, the rythmic lines and the blending of all these in harmony, are planned to give us a sense of ideal beauty. In all pictorial expression, besides light and shade and arrangement, the underlying principles of perspective and the foreshortening of objects must be understood by the artist, to make the leading lines of his picture correct. Ruskin says: "The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think; but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is prophecy, poetry and religion - all in one."
In Study No. 6, we have a fine example of a typical middle-class home, such as will be found in the suburbs of our American cities. Its over-lying eaves and dormer windows suggest the Swiss chalet and its style may be characterized as Swiss-American. The presence of severe simplicity, together with a fine suggestion of atmospheric effect from the clouds, impart a subtle charm to the lines of the house which are very pleasing. With the single exception of the porch window there is not a curved line in the building. The photographer realizing this fact, no doubt, has given us a perspective on the front and side elevations which emphasizes its best proportions and leaves but little for the imagination to supply. A building like this, designed entirely by one man and forming a complete work in itself, is necessarily created with the idea that it will be seen from certain probable and particular standpoints. The photographer has chosen, undoubtedly, the correct point of view - since there is perfect symmetry in it. The predominating feature being the porch, he has directed attention to it by placing it in the foreground of his picture. (See Page 48.)
The value of the foreground in work of this kind is not always rightly appreciated. Nothing is more incongruous than to see the foreground of a photograph cut off immediately in front of a vertical column or wall. In this picture the floor lines in front of the embankment, instinctively convey the sense of space and suggest that one is standing at a distance from the nearest vertical plane. Moreover, blank wall surfaces always play an important part in an architectural design. Their proportions and general arrangements often test severely even the skill of the architect. We can see that the photographer has not slighted this feature, and in order that his drawing may be correct has seen to it that all upright lines are vertical in the photograph. The lighting is good, and, on the whole, the picture is an excellent example of Architectural Photography.
THE DREAMY SUSQUEHANNA Study No. 49 Karl M. Ebert.
In Study No. 4, we have an architectural photograph that is not only a fine record of fact, but a picture as well. The photographer has not only succeeded in interpreting the lines of this handsome residence in a truthful and intelligent manner, but has also idealized it. By securing the beauty of the surroundings, the graceful shrubbery, and an interesting sky, he has given us the building as the principal point of interest in his picture like a gem in its setting. The fundamental requirement of every architectural photograph is true and perfect perspective, which here is good. (See Page 44.)
Ordinarily nothing near the camera should be included in the composition, as distortion is likely to ensue and prove very unpleasant. The wires that cross the sky line here have been unduly magnified and are decidedly irritating. Besides being a defect in themselves, they emphasize the repetition of parallel lines in the trolley wire, the stone wall, the concrete sidewalk and the street. Unless there was a special reason for it this photograph can be much improved pictorially by eliminating the wall altogether. Then, by further trimming, obliterate the telegraph pole growing out of the inartistic structure to the left of the picture. In so doing, while you have lessened its size apparently you will not have altered the proportions, and on the whole have improved your picture fifty per cent. You will have wiped out the defects and strengthened it by concentrating interest upon the house and grounds, the principal object of interest.
In Study No. 3 is a stately building of severe simplicity, with classic lines that are chaste and very imposing. The noble portico of the front elevation with its fluted columns and pediment suggest the lines of a Greek temple. The photographer, by his skill and taste, has selected a point of view that strengthens these impressions, and one almost regrets that such a structure was built of wood instead of some material more enduring. The curved line of the roadway is very pleasing, and repeated from the top of the steps, doubly so, by suggestion and inference. (See Page 43.)