Photography as a Fine Art

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The Achievement and Possibilities of Photographic Art in America by Charles H. Caffin, 1901

Text of Photography as a Fine Art

  • PHOTOGRAPHY AS. A FINE ART

    The Achievements and Possibilities of Photographic Art in America .-

    By CHARLES H. ~ .

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    NE\V YORK DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

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    CoPYRIGHT, 10011 BY }OHM WANAIIAKRR

    CoPYRIGHT, IQOI, BY DoUBLEDAY, PAG11 & CoiiPAJCY November, 1901

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  • INTRODUCTION

    Everyone recognizes the modern improvements in photography, but very few are aware of the direction and scope of its best developments. They know what respect-able results can be obtained by the amateur and how superior the print exhibited on Fifth Avenue is to that displayed in the Bowery ; but do not realize that anything more artistic is being attempted and achieved by men and women who are seeking to lift photography to the level of one of the Fine Arts.

    This group of " advanced photographers" is striving to secure in their prints the same qualities that contribute to the beauty of a picture in any other medium, and ask that their work may be judged by the same standard. This claim involves two necessities : first, that the photog-rapher must have as sound a knowledge of the principles of picture-making as the painters have; and, secondly, that it is within his power, as well as theirs, to put personal expression into the picture. It is not enough that he shall be an artist in feeling and knowledge, but that he shall be able so to control the stages of the pho-tographic process that the print at last shall embody the evidence of his own character and purpose, as an oil-painting may do in the case of the painter. That this is possible has been either ignored or denied. The original intention of the following chapters was to estab-lish this possibility and thus substantiate the claim of the

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  • INTRODUCTION

    advanced photographers that their art could be practised with such purposes and results as to place it among the other Fine Arts.

    Beginning with a consideration of persons, the book has grown more and more towards a consideration of principles. It evolved itself that way and, perhaps, not unfitly ; for an understanding of the principles is necessary to an appreciation both of what these photographers are aiming at and of what they have achieved, as well as of the further possibilities within reach of the art. N eces-sarily, it was only a summary of the principles that could be attempted and the utmost that the book can lay claim to is a possible suggestiveness. It may, perhaps, lead the general reader to look for something more in a photograph than a good likeness or accurate record of a landscape; may stimulate some photographers to a higher appreciation of the possibilities of their art and may even incline the painters to include a few photographers within the pale of the artistic brother hood.

    The first six chapters have been republished by permis-sion of Everybody's Magazine and the seventh by the courtesy of Camera Notes.

    C. H. C. MAMARONECK, N. y.

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  • By / . Crair Annan CAMPO SAN MARGHERITA

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    CONTENTS

    CHAPTBR PAGB

    INTRODUCTION vii

    I. THE DEVELOPMENT AND PRESENT STATUS OF THE PHOTOGRAPH L

    II. ALFRED STIEGLITZ AND His WoRK IC)

    III. GERTRUDE KASEBIER AND THE ARTISTIC-COMMERCIAL PORTRAIT 5 I

    IV. METHODS OF INDIVIDUAL EXPRESSION 83

    V. OTHER METHODS OF INDIVIDUAL EXPRESSION

    VI. THE LANDSCAPE SUBJECT

    VII. THE FIGURE SUBJECT iN PICTORIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

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    III

  • LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

    A Portrait, by J. Craig Annan Campo San Margherita Copy of the Earliest Sunlight Picture of a Human Face, taken in 1840 Examples of the Photographic Art of the Fifties A Typical Portrait of the Sixties A Companion Portrait of the Same Period A Stiff Modern Photo. An " Artistic " Portrait Bucolic Photography Professional "High Art" The Black Canal The Sand Dunes Portrait of Mr. R. At Anchor Going to the Beach Gossip-Katwyk Morning Noon Good Night Mother and Child An Icy Night, New York The Afternoon Visit A Study in Two Colors Reflections-Night, New York Portrait of a Dutch Woman The Net Mender September

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    23 24 25 26 26 27 29 31 32 35 37 41

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  • LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS-CONTINUED

    Decorative Panel Going to Boston Portrait of a Boy Portrait of Mr. B. Mr. A.M. Study of a Boy Fairy Tales Dickey A Group Miss Sears Portrait Mother and Child Portrait Miss D. Cornelia Lady with Newspaper La Grand-Mere Adele Sisters Portrait of Alfred Stieglitz The Horse . Portrait of Zolnay, the Sculptor Confined Vista in the Afterglow of an Autumnal Sunset Autumn Twilight Nirvana Song of the Lily An Indian Madonna Young Man with 'Cello Garden of Dreams A Sioux Chief Portrait of a Child Vine-crowned. A Summer Idyl Man in Armor Citizen Fouche Evening-Interior Landscape with Sheep Telegraph Poles

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    53 55 56 57 59 61

    6J 65 67 68 69

    70 71 72 73 73 74 77 79 85 87 89 92 93 94 97 98 99

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  • LisT oF ILLUSTRATIONs-CoNTINUED

    Portrait of Mrs. D. Self -oblivious The Puritan What Shall I Say? Morning The Readers At the Window Portrait of Mrs. D. Study of a Head Before Agincourt Portrait of Alphonse Mucha The Rose The Pool-Evening The Brook in Winter Wild Crocus The Rivulet The Judgment of Paris-Landscape Arrangement The Marshes-Florida Scurrying Home The Urn Girl and Guitar The May-Pole Shylock-A Study The Bath Mother and Child The Letter Box Testing Fruit A Roycrofter

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    119 122 123 125 128 131 132 133 135 137 143 145 148 151 154 157 159 163 169 171 173 174 177 179 181 182 185

    187

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    COPY OF THE EARLIEST SUNLIGHT PICTURE OF A HUMAN FACE, TAKEN IN 184o.

    PHOTOGRAPHY AS A FINE ART CHAPTER I

    THE DEVELOPMENT AND PRESENT STATUS OF THE PHOTOGRAPH

    WITH PHOTOGRAPHIC EXAMPI.ES FROM THE EARLIEST PoRTRAIT TO THE WoRKS OF ]. C RAIG ANNAN

    t\.N photography be reckoned among the fine arts?

    The great French painter, Paul Dela-roche, seeing an example of Daguerre's new light-pictures, is said to have exclaimed,

    ''Painting is dead.'' So far the prophecy has not been fulfilled ; and it is safe to say that painting. has less to fear from the competition of photography than from its

    Mr. Annan, a Scotchman, is one of the most versatile and artistic of European photographers, a man of forceful personality, who has had a powerful influence in the development of pictorial photography.

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    PHOTOGRAPHY AS A FINE ART

    own

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    over-productive-The interest of

    the remark, therefore, consists in this that Delaroche instinctively recognized in the new invention qualities and possibilities which would ultimately bring it within the pale of the other fine arts. It is a belief that has been cherished by pho-tographers from the start, and it is the object of the present article to trace, first, the development of this belief into prac-tice, and then to con-sider the possibilities and limitations of pho-tography for picture-making and the salient characteristics of pic-ture-photography a ~ aimed at or reached by

    the advanced photog-raphers.

    It is not always good to be heralded into the world with a

    EXAMPLES OF THE PHOTOGRAPHIC ART OF THE FIFTI ES

    Daguerreotypes stiff in character and awkward in a rrangemen't. They were mounted in gilt frames and generally

    enclosed in plush or leather cases.

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  • PHOTOGRAPHY AS A FINE ART

    flourish of trumpets, and the exaggerated expectations which the public formed regarding Daguerre's invention aroused the suspicion and animosity of the painters. This changed to contemptuous indifference as it began to be understood that photography had its limitations. The pendulum had swung to the opposite extreme, the art side was ignored and the process dismissed into the limbo of chemistry and mechanics. The one attitude was as unreasonable as the other. Moreover, photography as an art fell upon evil times; it was seized and ex-ploited for moneyed ends, and its artistic possibilities became obscured by commercialism. With the usual interacting of cause and effect, the photographers aimed to please the public, and the latter accepted their work as representative of the art at its best. Dip into the family album of twenty-five years ago ; you will see the mediocrity that prevailed under these conditions. Here and there a print will record a good likeness; but, for the most part, appear examples of persons, posed in painful attitudes, amid surroundings execrable in their ugliness ; the faces purged of every blemish and presenting surfaces as smooth and unlifelike as a fresh cake of soap. Or one's research