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.
656. That there is a change, almost imperceptible, but still constant and powerful in its influence, in the methods of portrait-making, is undeniable. The arbitrary domination of the sky-lighted operating-room, with its endless source of troubles, its unwholesome effect on the characteristics of the sitter and its severity of poses and lightings, is being gradually broken. The signs all point to a different and more up-to-date method of making portraits, a method more in harmony with the greater knowledge people now have of the rules of art and good taste.
657. The operating-room with its side or side and top-light is the outgrowth of the needs of the first photographers who used the slow Daguerreotype process and later the somewhat faster, but still slow, Callotype and Collodion processes. The exposure with the Daguerreotype process was so prolonged that an out-door exposure was almost a necessity. This gave way to the glass-house, generally situated on a roof if the gallery was located in a city. Later, as one process succeeded another, each faster than the previous one, a smaller source of light was found adequate; but still the traditions of stucco-benches and pillars, impossible background scenes, and heavy ornamental chairs maintained, and each succeeding generation of young photographers was taught that portrait-making by photography meant a skylight which would give a certain stereotyped kind of lighting, under which people "sat" for their pictures.
658. "Sitting for a photograph," under these conditions, was, to many, a mental torture. The old-time "look-pleasant, please," and "don't move" phrases acted as cold showers on the temperament of the sitter, and while a physical likeness was never hard to get on the plate, the photograph seldom showed the character or individuality of the sitter. It lacked the ease of pose, and few, if any, of the canons of arts were observed, except by those photographers who were possessed of exceptional ability or had the training and insight of an artist.
659. It was the dilettante in photography, the high-class amateur, who first realized that skylight portraiture was not satisfying, to whom the credit must be given of showing professional photographers that there were other ways of making portraits than under the skylight with its ever present 45 degrees light. His initial crude attempts at portrait-making in the home were first laughed at, but he persevered, and the works of some of the leaders soon proved that the home portrait, or the portrait made by natural lighting, was often more artistic and more natural in expression than that made under the skylight. A realization of this, and the further fact that home portraiture called for no studio and few accessories, led some of the professional men to take it up as a specialty, adding to the ideas of the amateur the skill and finish acquired in daily professional work.
660. Though the spread of the idea was slow, it was steady, and today home portraiture and a home portrait outfit is almost a necessary adjunct of every studio. There are still many photographers, however, who fight hard against the growth of home portraiture. They are loth to lose their investments of thousands of dollars and the work of years in their studios, and to admit that, after all, the profession of portrait-making needs but a certain skill in adaptation, a simple camera and some kind of a work-room in which to finish the work.
661. But the change is there; it is as unavoidable as that the earth will revolve today, tomorrow and every day. The point to be looked at, is how to adapt one's surroundings to get in tune with .the present trend; how to make of the present studio, the "studio of the future" so that investments may be saved and turned into even better account by catering to the demand for the home style of portrait or the portrait made in home-surroundings. It is not every home that is suitable for home portraiture. The better class photographer, with his more select patronage, has little difficulty in finding suitable surroundings and lightings for his artistic portraiture. His less comfortably situated competitor has to wrestle with harder problems, after he finds the home entirely unsuited to the making of portraits. His clients live in small rooms, or, if in a city, in flats, in which the rooms are barely large enough for the few necessary pieces of furniture, and certainly not adapted for good portrait-making. This throws the average studio proprietor on his own resources, and we are again led to the point how to get around the difficulty of adapting oneself to circumstances and so supply one's patronage with the growing demand for the new styles.
662. Following the old law of necessity being the mother of invention, the up-to-date artist, failing to find each home suitable for portrait-making, has brought the "home" into his studio, and, where circumstances permit, now fits up a room with all the comfortable appearances of a living-room in daily use, using this "home" studio either entirely or as an adjunct to his regular skylight-room. The old-time portrait room, better known as the operating room, will soon be a thing of the past, its place being taken by the more exclusive studio. The large skylight, often equipped with dirty curtains and screens, and the room supplied with reflectors, head screens and backgrounds galore, to say nothing of the numerous accessories which give the impression of a work-shop, rather than a studio, will sooner or later be dispensed with. Today the vast improvements in electric and other artificial illuminants enable the photographer to produce any result obtainable with daylight. Again, the modern methods, not dependent on light conditions, make it possible to select a better business location for a studio, with the further advantage that less room will be required.
068. The studio of the future will be fitted up as a living-room; furnishings and all being exactly the same as a library or living-room in the home. All semblance of a photographic studio will be absent, except the ordinary camera and the lamp which supplies the illumination. In this way it will conform to the demands for portraiture in the home.
664. The accompanying illustrations represent the first steps toward the studio of the future. The room arranged for this purpose was formerly used for displaying large portraits, but is now fitted up for a studio, however, with all the appearances of an art room, wherein choice productions of the artist are displayed. In rearranging and decorating this room the artist had several ideas in mind - first, that of using the walls for a background, so the subject could be photographed while seated, or standing anywhere in the room; second, provision had to be made for photographing both children and adults in the same room; and third, it was essential that the position of pictures on the wall could be instantly altered to properly balance the portrait and carry out the idea of portraiture in the home. This is a most important consideration, as it supplies a means of breaking up blank spaces in the background and carrying out the lines of composition. To accomplish this it was necessary that the walls be covered with such a material as would permit pictures being adjusted to any space without showing the ungainly picture wire from which frames are usually suspended. This was easily made possible by completely covering the walls with closely woven wire mesh, suspended over one inch pine strips. The top strip was run lengthwise of the room, 18 inches from the ceiling, while the lower one was placed within 32 inches of the floor, and the third midway between the two. The wire mesh was stretched and fastened tightly over these strips with small staples.
665. Burlap was used for the covering, it being the most serviceable both with regard to durability and appropriateness as a background. The ceiling being 12 ft. high, the burlap was obtained 8 ft. wide, and stretched around the room in one solid piece. Spaces, of course, were cut out for the doors and the windows. The burlap was first tacked at the top, close to the edge, and then lightly stretched and tacked at the bottom; the picture moulding along the top covering the tack heads, and the 3 inch plate-rail at the bottom covering the base. Space between the plate-rail and the floor was covered with leatherette, in imitation of board panels. The color of this material matched the mission finish of the trimmings and wood-work.
666. The principal object of the wire mesh on the walls is to enable the hanging of pictures anywhere without wire suspensions. A wire brad is driven in the center of the upper end of the back of the picture frame (if the frame is very heavy two brads are used, one being placed on each side of the frame). The brad is driven in at a slight angle, and when the frame is placed against the wall, the brad penetrates through the burlap into the wire mesh, which latter supplies a firm support for the frame. Any picture may be instantly removed and hung in any place desired. The fact that the framed picture, and even an unframed one, may be quickly changed about makes it very easy for the operator to instantly break up his picture space.