The Laws Applied Photography 47

Fig. 35.

The Laws Applied Photography 48

Fig. 36.

Subtlety

So the process is very simple: repeat, vary, contract, concentrate, and the thing is done - a work of art! Sad to say, it does not follow. If the picture has been thus mechanically made and contains nothing else, it will be no more a work of art than rny diagrams. Because the means by which it has been produced will be perfectly obvious, and the obvious in art is always the sorriest blunder. You lose the game when you lay your cards on the table.

All other things being equal, the beauty of a picture is in proportion to its subtlety.

"That is all very well," we fancy you will say, "for the artist who can do what he likes with the scene in front of him; pull down churches, sweep away mountains, grow trees, or build bridges as his fancy may dictate. A big stone in the foreground, or a telegraph pole in the middle of the view would make an otherwise eligible view impossible for the photographer - a painful fact, and must be accepted.

But, on the other hand, there is much to choose from, and, in the hands of those who possess the necessary taste and skill, a great deal can be done between the squeezing of the bulb and the mounting of the print. Anyway, the following suggestions should do something to lighten the undoubtedly heavy load of difficulties.

Choose, for preference, a simple subject. Resist the ever-present temptation to "get in" this or that, because it happens to be interesting in itself. You are not out to secure an illustrated record of a place, but to make a picture. In fact, don't think of what is in front of you as a place at all. Regard it simply as a combination of line, light, and shade. Your highest aim should be to express an emotion rather than to represent a place. A cathedral in unsuitable light and with unsuitable surroundings would make an execrable picture, while, in a favourable light, and in a satisfactory position, it would be possible to get a superb result from a pigsty.

By a simple subject we do not necessarily mean a subject with very few objects in it, but a subject containing simple masses of light and shade. A huge city, making one mass of shade against a light sky, would be more simple than a village street, cut up with bright lights and dark shadows.

Choose a subject having some feature (that is to say, feature of light or shade), more prominent than the rest, and to which the other parts are pleasantly related. As a rule, if this feature is comparatively near, focus upon it. If it is not sufficiently important in nature for your purpose, use the utmost resources of the camera to make it so. At all times have no concern for the mechanical exactness of the machine when it interferes with the perfection of the artistic result. And never fall into the fatal error of regarding nature as too perfect to be manipulated. Nature has no patience with those who grovel abjectly before her.

Remember that the camera is not human, that it has no taste, and that it sees more as if it were a fly with a million eyes. The "sharp" negatives, so beloved of the photographer plus nothing, arc as much evidences of the ignorance of the manipulator as of the perfection of the machine. Make the result as nearly as possible as you see it, while looking in one direction, usually in the direction of the principal feature. If you do this you will see the view as a whole without being irritated by a mass of complicated details. But if you give a thousand separate glances at a thousand different parts of the scene you will see it in much the same way as the camera, but the sum of these glances will not give you a good picture. As likely as not it will give you nine hundred and ninety-nine bad ones.

This, we know, is the bone of contention, over which photographers are divided into two opposing camps - the manipulators and the artists. The manipulator's objection is well exposed by the word "fuzziness" - the deliberate blurring of certain, or it may be all, parts of the picture. In many cases, we unhesitatingly admit that the objection is completely justified. One generally finds a few examples of the kind referred to, in most photographic exhibitions - combinations of meaningless blurs with wildly sentimental titles. But they do not constitute an argument in favour of uniform sharpness; they merely show that the perpetrators of freak photographs do not know what the artists are aiming at. The artist looks at a scene and gathers certain impressions. He tries to record these impressions - that is all. Finding that the camera cannot achieve his object unaided he comes to its assistance. He is quite fearless; he will stop at nothing in order to attain his object. Now that object is generally attained by blotting out a considerable amount of detail that the unimpressionable lens will, if left to itself, inevitably record.

For a long time past we have been trying to discover exactly why the manipulators still object, in spite of the perfectly plain reasons which the artists give for their method of procedure, and have only quite recently discovered it. A member of the former school put the point of view in the following words : - "I quite agree that a certain amount of obliteration of detail makes a photograph more like a picture; but what satisfies me in a picture does not satisfy me in a photograph. I expect something else in a photograph." That puts the matter in a nutshell. The two schools have different aims, and set up different standards. Very well; let each go in its own chosen direction, realising that the other is bound for another destination. If the manipulator aims at securing all that the most delicately constructed camera can be made to record, let him get the finest possible machine, become a complete master of every technical intricacy, and go on his way rejoicing.