This section is from the "Studio light a magazine of information for the profession 1923" book, by Sara F. T. Price. Also see Amazon: Studio light a magazine of information for the profession 1923.
Photography began with an outline - a mere shadow or silhouette produced by the action of light on a sensitized material, but it was some time before this image could be held. Then came the fixed image and later on the registration of light and shade and halftones which gave to the world the real beginning of photography. The most difficult thing today is to imagine the world without the pictures of places and people which have resulted from this wonderful discovery. How many of us would recognize President Harding, Herbert Hoover, General Pershing, Marshal Joffre, Clemen-ceau, Lloyd George or any of the other great world figures were we to meet them face to face, were it not for photography. And what a poor conception we would have of the world in general had we not been able to form our ideas from pictures of people and things.
Like many other great discoveries or inventions, photography was at first a novelty. People had the curiosity to know how they looked in pictures. And at best those early photographs were little more than records. They were maps of one's features, set and fixed. One could expect little more when it was necessary for the early photographer to clamp his subject in a chair so that he could not move while the long exposure made the picture an assured success.
Then came the photographic materials that permitted the photographer to make exposures much faster. The sitter would even be asked to smile, but there was always the admonition to "hold it" that too often made the smile a congealed one or, at best, an indication of an unnatural and lifeless or forced expression.
Then came still further improvements in photographic materials and especially in their speed which made the motion picture possible. And what wonders we have seen in motion pictures - what breadth and scope of learning, as well as amusement, they have brought to the world is a matter of common knowledge.
But they have also educated the picture buying public to expect something more than they have been getting in their own portraits. They can't expect motion pictures but they know that every changing expression of the "movie"' actor or actress is made possible by the rapid succession of dozens of pictures made at the rate of sixteen per second and that any one of these pictures, separately, is a still picture representing a part of some action.
Why, then, is it not possible for the portrait photographer to animate his subject, choose the most pleasing pose and expression and catch it with his camera? Possibly that is the gist of the thought that runs through the mind of many a prospective sitter for portraits, even though the thought may not be expressed in words.
It is a little too much to expect that the photographer would use his lights as strong as the motion picture camera man - it wouldn't be practical - so he could not very well be expected to make exposures that would stop motion in the way the "movie" man does. But he can make reasonably short exposures - he can dispense with head rests and similar pieces of apparatus that make people uncomfortable or ill at ease - he can engage his sitter in conversation, omit much of the usual experimenting with lights and work quietly but fast, securing a number of exposures before his sitter is aware of the fact that he is really making pictures.
Some photographers insist that this cannot be done - that it sounds good but isn't practical. But it is being done - the sitters are pleased with the results and the photographers are known as successful men.
It is the same plan that the successful photographers of babies use every day, but it is merely varied to suit the grown-up. In the one case the photographer talks baby talk - in the other he talks grown-up talk and adds the deception of only making preparation for the picture making when, as a matter of fact, he is actually making fairly fast exposures while his subject is relaxed and free from the self-consciousness that comes with the knowledge that an expression is being made to order or at least coaxed out by the photographer.Possibly it is a good idea to talk over such matters occasionally with those about us just to see if the people we make pictures for are being led by us or are leading us. One can not afford to wait until the public demands something different or better in photography. The demand should be anticipated and then created by constructive advertising and then supplied.
FROM A PORTRAIT FILM NEGATIVE
By Wm. S. Ritch New York City
The photographer who floes these things leads his patrons and is not led by them.