By JAMES A. SINCLAIR, F.R.P.S.
We live in the hand-camera age, and as modern photography is the apotheosis of the snap-shot, it may seem late in the day to write an article on the possibilities of the Hand Camera. Perhaps it would be better to discuss the impossibilities were it not for the fact that the old legend " that for serious work a stand camera must be used " is supported by a conservative but rapidly diminishing school of photographers who will not take the evidence of their senses and who are under the impression that the Hand Camera is only a " Kodak " with a very limited sphere of usefulness. For my part I am prepared to assert that the Hand Camera will do nearly everything that the pictorialist requires, and, generally speaking, will do it better than the stand camera. There is hardly a book of travel published to-day in which we do not gain quite as much information from the snap-shots with which it is illustrated as from the literary descriptions of the author. Our daily and weekly press would, indeed, largely cease to exist were it not for snap-shot illustrations. The snap-shot to-day will mirror this epoch to future races in the most realistic fashion.
I would ask each user of a hand camera to help in the practical history of our own times by systematic work, and it is easy to do this without any great effort. The first thing to aim at in this direction is good technique, and this is not difficult to secure providing the Hand-Camera worker will understand his instrument and recognise its limitations. For instance, a camera with a focal plane shutter will admirably portray athletic pursuits, horse and cycle races, diving contests and accurately record very rapid movements, but may utterly fail on many subjects which are quite possible with cameras having good diaphragm shutters giving such speeds as 1/8, 1/4 and 1/2 second. Nearly everything is a question of compromise, and to do the best work we must recognise the limitations of our instrument or the materials in order to get the best out of them. Films are usually slower than plates, some cameras have but little movement to the rising front, and others may have slow lenses, yet by suiting our subject to the conditions, good work may be done.
Court Of Lions, Granada.
Jas. A. Sinclair.
Taken with Camera held in the hand.
Having mastered the question of technique, it is important to work with a definite purpose, and, firstly, I would suggest collections of scenes of everyday life. For instance, what could be more delightful than for parents to photograph their children in the various stages of their growth, together with the home surroundings, binding such prints together and giving the set as a present when each was old enough to appreciate such evidence of loving thought and care.
How such work might prove : " That love lives on and has a power to bless When those we love are hidden in the grave."
For my part, I have made collections of travel pictures. Even now I look over these sets with pleasant thoughts of days that are past, and of companions who are no more. Some of my books represent incidents of great national interest. For example, one little volume shows the streets of London set out for the coronation of a king at a time when his sudden illness sent a thrill of sympathy throughout the land. Flags were flying, triumphal arches erected and the sun shone gaily and for my title page I used the words of " Rare Ben Jonson."
Jas. A. Sinclair.
" Have not I seen the pomp of a whole kingdom - laid forth, as it were, to the show, and vanish all away in a day ? "
In these pictures are shown horse 'buses, soon to be things of the past, Westminster Bridge before the era of trams and above all, the men and women of the time.
One will do one sort of work and one another. A valuable collection might be made of street hawkers and traders. The onion man from Brittany is in our streets, but will soon be gone. The lamplighter lingers on in some places, but with the advance of electricity will soon be a rara avis. The old cabby on the four-wheeler is yet to be seen at the railway stations, but " fiscal reform " will not preserve him from the triumphant taxi-cab. These and many of their kind may be obtained to-day, but changes come swiftly.
Others will delight in the changing moods of our rivers, the calm of early morning or the stormy sunset. For those fortunate enough to live in London there is a never-ending source of work. It is the most picturesque city in the world, and yet is strangely neglected. I have often wanted a holiday in London, but have not dared to attempt such work where I have business, for I must confess that only by forgetting the latter can I do successful photography.
The method which I adopt for my own prints is to print 1/4-plate negatives on 1/2-plate and 1/2-plate negatives on 1/1-plate platinotype paper, masking the prints so that they have white margins. These sheets of paper are then bound up so that they form the leaves of a book,and the value of the set is enhanced by an appropriate title-page. Others may prefer other methods, but in any case some permanent printing process should be selected. One very gruesome set of prints done in such a way was presented me by a friend who had a narrow escape from being overwhelmed in the destruction of St. Pierre in Martinique. He was on his way to this place for a holiday, and arrived just after the disaster, when the whole of the city was in flames. Such a set of views taken at such a time will have the greatest interest and value long after we have had our day and ceased to be.
What shall I take ? is often asked. What shall I not take ? is the difficult problem for anyone in any great centre of human industry and activity. I mention a list that may appeal to the dweller in Cockayne, and it could be extended and modified indefinitely, for any other place where men do congregate.
Historic London. Places that have been famous in its history. Stow's Survey of London, Besant's London, and Cassell's Old and New London, and innumerable other works will give " inspiration."
Literary London. Places made interesting by the sayings and doings of literary men. Dickens' London.
London Street Hawkers.
London Traffic and Means of Transit.
London Markets. An endless number of pictures would be found by the early riser in Covent Garden or the Borough.
London Churches. (The stand may be wanted for interiors.)
These are suggestions. A moment's consideration will reveal other nuggets in this mine of wealth. Then, when taking holidays, how pleasant it is to have reminiscences in some permanent form, and a set can easily be made including all seen and done. The educational value of the hand camera soon becomes apparent, for the things photographed are not only seen but remembered. When forming holiday collections I strive to make them entirely representative of the country and people, and include physical characteristics, architecture and local manners and customs, at the same time portraying them in as pictorial manner as possible. By so doing every incident of the holiday or journey is brought back in the most vivid fashion even after many years.
Bearing these things in mind, and working with definite aim, the possibilities of the hand camera are endless and its careful use will add to the pleasures of life now and its interest to posterity.
Tenbury Church. Taken with the Sinclair " Una," held in the hand.