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The Barnet Book of Photography A Collection of Practical Articles

How wonderfully clear and bright that photograph is


In

all such cases our interest and value of the photograph would vastly diminish, were it possible for a photograph of this kind to be made simply by the photographer's hand and imagination without any original at all.

You look at a photograph of this or that sea-side place and remark, "Ah, yes, that's dear old Yarmouth, many a time, etc., etc.," or else, "Dear me, I wonder what place that is, it's so like----" such and such a town, or it may be you enquire "Where's that?" and you express or think to yourself you would like to go and visit the spot. These and kindred sensations are those kindled by the average photograph, but there is yet another, for you may be impelled to exclaim, "How wonderfully clear and bright that photograph is," "What a good photograph." In this case you are interested purely in the execution as an example of clever manipulation and skilful craftsmanship.

Now, compare such feelings as these with those stirred by an example of good pictorial work. In the first place your esteem for it, if you value it at all, is quite as great whether you know the place where it was made or not. If it pleases you, that pleasure is not dependent upon the fact that it does represent some place. In the case of paintings and drawings as often as not they do not pretend to represent any place at all, but are pure fiction, yet we do not value them the less. To what then is the pleasure we feel when looking at

a good picture due? Is it not that a picture stirs up, that is, _creates_ pleasant or beautiful thoughts and ideas--by pleasant I do not mean necessarily merry or joyous ones, for some hearts feel profounder pleasure in the grandeur of storm or the majesty of the mountain than in the sweet wilderness of flowery wastes, but notice that such beautiful ideas are _created_ by the picture. You were thinking of something totally different before you came upon the landscape picture which instantly made you feel the glowing light, the stirring breeze, and hear the rustling corn and noisy brook, and yet it cannot be said it is because we _recognise_ these things in the picture that we receive these impressions, at least it is not the kind of recognition which takes place when we see a photograph of Brighton Pier or Haddon Hall.

Notice, it is not the exact and faithful portrayal of objects that creates the emotions instanced, for if you closely observe the manner in which a good painting is done you will find that rude splashes of paint, broad brush strokes, and the like stand for foliage or water, or corn stalks as the case may be, when we know that had the painter desired he _could_ have produced his likeness of nature with a good deal more of the precise detail and fidelity to outlines which photography excels in, _had he wished_. But if the painter or other pictorial artist needs not to trouble about accuracy to details to secure the effect aimed at he must be faithful to general facts. There is a great difference between not recognising things or having no particular wish to do so, and feeling conscious that a portrayal is so utterly unlike anything in our past experience of nature that we should not recognise the objects even if we _were_ acquainted with them. To take an extreme case--our enjoyment of the effect and sentiment of a beautiful landscape picture is not enhanced by our being able to recognise whether the trees are oaks or elms, but it would be distinctly disturbed if the palm trees were represented as growing on the slopes of a Welsh mountain. Innumerable examples and instances might be given to show that the artist, whatsoever his medium, be it colour or monochrome, may depart from truth, or may be indifferent to precise details, _only so far as he avoids palpable untruth_.


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