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.
The foreground is sufficiently broad to emphasize the vertical columns of the portico. If there was any less, the building would appear cut off and top heavy in the photograph, which would result in want of balance and support to the composition. One serious aspect, at least, from a pictorial standpoint, is lack of sky or any suggestion of atmosphere in the picture. Pure white skies and microscopical details were accepted 20 years ago by exhibition judges as ideal pictures. Today they would not be tolerated in polite photographic society. It is wonderful what a difference in the brilliancy of the negative a ray filter or sky shade will make when judiciously used. Especially is this so when working with a lens that will cover a larger plate than the one exposed. The mouldings and projecting wood work here are not designed as mere ornaments, but rather to soften or strengthen outline, as the case may be, or to reveal structural lines in the building itself. The lighting, therefore, had to be carefully selected in order to avoid false effects in the photograph. Everything here is in harmony with one especially designed scheme of lighting, and there are no awkward cross lights in the photograph to distract the attention. Finally there is a feeling for symmetry and good balance in the composition that is very interesting, to say the least.
It is a mistake to assume that exact symmetry is inartistic. The finer the architecture the more strikingly impressive are its symmetrical proportions and lines. Being a salient feature of the construction, attention should be directed to them, by the photographer, in his picture. This the photographer, with very pleasing effect, has done in this picture. Another picture of this same residence made three years later is presented as a frontispiece. It shows a marked improvement in appearance, owing to the surroundings and cloud effects.
Study No. 5 shows an old-fashioned two story block house, plain and substantial in appearance, but with nothing of distinction about it architecturally. The photographer has given us a picture of the grounds, with the house included. The statue of the "Winged Mercury," balancing himself on his toes, and the little house in the rear, attract the most attention. The old homestead is easily a secondary interest in the picture. The sweep of roadway in front of the house carries the eye naturally into the picture to the house and helps out somewhat. In fact it is the saving quality of the picture. On the other hand, the high key of the statue, the fountain, and the little house in the rear, make them easily the central point of interest in the picture. "With this divided interest it becomes confusing and lacks simplicity and unity, the basic quality of all true art. The defects would be less glaring if they were subdued to a lower key. It is a case of over-crowding the picture with detail. (See Page 47.)
There can be no objection to the statue, but it was too near the camera and therefore is magnified out of all due proportion. Furthermore, the absence of a sky and clouds destroys all suggestion of atmosphere and bars this picture from the pictorial class. It is only what it purports to be - a commercial photograph. In a work of art, these details would be supplied, plus the refined feeling that always characterizes an artistic picture. The composition may be perfect, the lines and masses may be balanced with the utmost harmony, the values may be true, but the one necessary quality to bind them all together is that fine poetic quality or feeling which always characterizes a real work of art. For art is not an affair of argument but rather of deep feeling. If you feel a picture to be wrong, it cannot be altogether right. One feels that this picture can be improved upon in the ways just indicated.
Architectural Photography is in itself a field for endless study and delight to those who have the opportunity and taste for it. By means of photography can be reproduced the greatest achievements along the lines of architecture and buildings. While the artist photographer, in making a diffused focus picture, often secures a blurred image in the finished picture, the architect and draughtsman, on the other hand, demand all the details necessary for the proper presentation of the design. One is seeking to make the picture artistic by reproducing only an impression of the subject with all detail suppressed, while the other is looking for a record of fact, with every possible detail reproduced.
Study No. 2. The picture entitled "October Morning," by Sweet Brothers, of Minneapolis, is an excellent example of an artistic photograph that is not architectural. The morning mist is very interesting. The artist has made use of the people walking along the sidewalk, an electric light pole and a wagon in the street, to give proper tone and animation to his picture. In the midst of it all, like a diamond in its setting, is the outline of a noble building. Only the outline of the pediment and facade are visible in the half-tone. (See Page 26.)
The pillars stand out perfectly through the veil of mist that enfolds them, and the repetition of the vertical lines in the columns gives an impression of loftiness and dignity. By cutting off the other buildings in the street, the artist has brought out the outlines of the structure in a delightful way. "While it cannot be regarded as an architectural picture, in the strict sense of the term, it is a clever bit of photographic work, to say the least, having been treated most artistically.
Holding a middle place between the sharply defined and the diffused focus picture, is the picture entitled, "A Corner in the Piazetti in Venice." (Study No. 7.) In it we have a choice bit of architectural detail that is well rendered. It represents a portion of the Doge's palace, near the Ducal staircase in the Piazetti. While the details in the stone carvings of the capitol are lost, the majestic sweep of the Gothic arches, and the rounded solidity of the columns are profoundly impressive. After reflecting upon the limitations of the camera, lens, plate and paper, we cannot but admire the cleverness of the artist in his choice of subject, his point of view, his aerial perspective, his composition and general treatment, for the resultant picture is superb.