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 Parthenon at Athens is perhaps the best example of architecture in the world today. Like the splendid creations of human genius in other lines of human endeavor, Shakespeare's "Hamlet," Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper," Beethoven's Ninth Symphony; the artist has sought to produce the emotion of sublimity and grandeur by his creation. In the case of the Parthenon, its great simplicity at the base, the numerous vertical lines leading the attention upwards, the decorations massed at the top, all help to carry the attention upwards and the emotion of sublimity follows. In this picture, by cutting off the irrelevant surroundings, the artist has brought out the outlines of the palace in a delightful way, and has centered the interest in the solid proportions of the colonade. At first glance, the impression is one of heavy massiveness, yet, with further study, the soaring character of the arches and the repetition of column and vertical line by the suggestion of a colonade in the upper portion of the picture give it the appearance of airiness and grace. Furthermore, by clever lighting and handling the pillars, the central points of interest stand out perfectly one beyond the other. "We have gray against gray, and the secret of this sharpness and rounded fullness in the picture is due to the subtle variation in the depth of gray-ness which only an artist could recognize and show in his photograph. (See Page 52.)
In the "Souvenir de Petit Trianon," (Study No. 1), we have an ideal example of what an architectural photograph should be. The quaint stone house with its high pitched roof covered with thatch, its over-hanging eaves and dormer windows, is a good example of the French country house at the close of the 18th century. The aerial perspective, the first requisite in every good architectural photograph, is exceedingly good. Due regard has been given to the quality of light falling and to the diminution of the strength of light and shade of the various objects in the picture, according to their distances. Its setting is very picturesque, in the heart of the forest, the soft foliage of the trees furnishing a beautiful background, and emphasizing the graceful lines and proportions of the building. The straight parallel lines of the roadway lead the eye naturally into the picture, ending abruptly at the further side, with the Hogarth line of beauty, a double curve, one side of which carries the eye directly to the building itself. Another curve, partially suggested in the picture, falls at the foot of a graceful winding staircase, again centering the attention upon the building. The balance of the picture is admirable, the masses of dark foliage on either side balance the lights on the house. The bit of highlight in the lower left hand corner of the picture is balanced by the patch of dark beneath the staircase. But it is the association that goes with this beautiful spot that gives it a charm and makes it deeply interesting. Here lived Marie Antoinette, the ill-fated wife of Louis the XVI., King of France, and here she came to spend perhaps the happiest days of her too short life. Disgusted with the duplicity and affectation of court life at Versailles she turned her back upon the palace and sought to lead the simple life at Trianon, which the King had built for her further back in the park. Here she came to play the part of dairymaid, feeding the hens with her own hands, milking the cows and making butter until the storm of the French Revolution broke furiously over her head and swept her to her awful fate. (See Page 25.)
In the beautiful landscape, Study No. 44, entitled "Spring," by Wm. H. Phillips we have an open space on the edge of the forest. The sun is shining through the morning mist. The feeling of the picture is one of mingled mist and sunshine. One can fancy the birds singing in the trees and all nature awakening to life. It is a delightful impression of nature and of life, in addition to being an exact photographic reproduction of the scene depicted. (See Page 289.)
Examine this print with half-closed eyes, to lose sight of the details of the picture. Note how beautifully the darks and lights blend. The soft feathery masses of the foliage make the most delicate of transitions from the deep shade to the full sunshine and the misty haze of the distance. The slender trees rise up, in the middle distance, as if just awakening from sleep. The touches of light in the foreground probably mean blooming flowers in the grasses. It is just such a scene as one would see in early summer, and the touches of sunshine are like a dream of paradise. What the artist wants to show is the vigorous growth of the trees in response to sun and showers. The lovely play of light among the trees suggests an impulse to greet the dawn with frolic and song.
The soft masses of foliage in the print are all full of airy grace and life-like motion. Furthermore, the line of beauty indicated by the pathway in the lighted foreground is taken up by the grass and bushes and runs into the trees below the center of the picture. The whole print is full of graceful curves and soft touches of light and shade. The joy of the picture is contagious. The principle of order so essential to beauty is everywhere in evidence, and one feels that this picture is pleasant to look at, even if we do not quite understand it as we would like.
In all good composition, the artist seeks first to lead the attention by means of harmonious arrangement of contrasts and transitions of line and shadow to the center of interest in the picture. In the same way, the musical composer builds up his production about a dominant theme. The composer of literature arranges his material about a dominant incident or character in the book. In each of these arts, strength, snap and brilliancy are obtained by contrasts, while delicacy, grace and subtlety are secured by transitions, the principle of unity remaining the same in all the arts alike.