Alfred Horsley Hinton

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Hinton, photographed by Percy G. R. Wright, c. 1904

Alfred Horsley Hinton (1863 – 25 February 1908) was an English landscape photographer, best known for his work in the pictorialist movement in the 1890s and early 1900s.


Practical Pictorial Photography, 1898[edit]

Alfred Horsley Hinton. Practical Pictorial, 1898


The application of the foregoing principles[edit]

  • …the strongest part of a picture is the sensation and the feeling which it creates, this being done through the agency of certain familiar objects more or less accurately depicted and represented with more or less completeness.
    The MOTIVE, then, in all pictorial work is to convey some thought or idea or sensation by means of a chosen subject.
    • p. 12
  • …we might now formulate a maxim to the effect that art -- that is, in our case, pictorial representation --- employs the image of concrete things to create abstract ideas.
    • p. 13

Methods - The practical application of means to end[edit]

  • In selecting our subject…there are two factors which it should be borne in mind are essential, and these are Expression and Composition
    • p. 16
  • …--- a view may include any number of interesting facts, may constitute a whole catalog of important and pretty items, and so be valuable as a view or as a record; but it would utterly fails as a pictorial composition.
    • p. 19
  • The composition may be ever so carefully worked out, but it must appear unconsciously done. And so it will be best in most cases to depart slightly from precise and symmetrical arrangement, as though unintentionally, lest the endeavor to obey artificial rules betrays itself.
    • p. 20
Woodbridge Quay
  • The desire to see for the sake of seeing is with most people the only desire to be gratified; hence the delight in detail.
    • p. 27
  • Hence SELECTION in photography, or at least in landscape and some other branches of work, often takes the place of what in painting becomes voluntary COMPOSITION.
    • p. 28
  • If we are to select our subjects or arrange our groups with a pictorial motive we must absolutely and entirely sacrifice every other consideration, and be prepared to cut out of our composition the prettiest and most interesting item, if by so doing composition pure and simple is improved. And if some subject you are attached to will not admit of composition or will not admit of your treating it pictorially, then photograph it if you wish, but never suppose that it will form a picture.
    • p. 29

How expression may be given to a picture[edit]

  • The prettiest or most interesting prospect may lack the conditions which awaken our emotions, and, lacking the essentials of the picture, must be passed by.
    • p. 33

  • … to put it into slightly different form, it is not the facts in nature that the good picture aims at portraying, but the effects of light and shade accompanied by a pleasing arrangement.
    • p. 34
  • Photography itself may err by inaccurately rendering the relative tones in Nature. Then we shall have to ask, What is " Tone "?...
    • p. 34

The photographic print[edit]

  • ...he (a photographer) forgets that unless he has learnt when the tones of a picture are right or not, he will not know whether his work is good or bad, nor know what to try and overcome in future.
    • p. 36

Tone and atmoshphere[edit]

  • Very great care should then be taken to see that distant objects are rendered so as to appear distant that is, in correct relative tone when compared with the foreground or nearer portions.
    • p. 40
Melton Meadows
  • The louder a sound is, the more we recognize it as being near, so the louder the "tone" of objects that is, the blacker or whiter the nearer they seem; and so if in our picture we wish to give a sense of distance, we must see that the darkest shadows and highest lights are in the foreground : and because we may not be able to materially alter things as the undiscriminating process gives them to us, we must seek for and select those scenes, those subjects, in which this arrangement of highest and deepest tones do come in the foreground, and then take care that our process renders them with fidelity, so that we may not lose the sense of their nearness or the feeling of greater distance of other planes which it is intended they shall give.
    • p. 44-45
  • It must be remembered that after all in making a picture we are endeavoring to set down on one plane various objects in such a way as to suggest an infinitude of varying planes, and hence we are justified in selecting such conditions of nature as shall help us to give the impression of truthfulness, even though it be not in particular cases absolutely true to fact.
    • p. 46
  • ...strictly speaking, tone is the relative lightness and darkness due to the effect of light governed by atmosphere, and has nothing to do with the relative lightness and darkness or relative value with which various colours appear when compared with each other.
    • p. 47

The use of the lens in pictorial work[edit]

  • With most of us, even without special training, there is a certain instinctive sense of proportion, and thus we recognize the relative distance of objects by their relative size.
    • p. 51
  • We know the mountain peaks are lofty, and we think of them so, and we mentally enlarge them, but not the cottage at their foot, or the trees half way up.
    • p. 57
  • As a rule, in pictorial photography a long-focus lens will on the whole be most satisfactory.
    • p. 58

Pin-hole as a substitute for the lens[edit]

  • The chief characteristic of the pin-hole photograph is that we get a general suppression of focus in all parts the picture is nowhere quite sharp.
    • p. 60
  • It is often difficult and well-nigh impossible, when using the lens, to get all planes in moderate focus without getting one or some part excessively so, and similarly, if we avoid excessive sharpness in each and every part, some planes, such as the extreme distance or immediate foreground, so broken up as to destroy form and structure. Then it is that the pin-hole, with its equal focus in all planes and at any focal length, seems to recommend itself; but if it be desired to emphasize any object, by introducing more detail there than elsewhere, then the uniform sharpness of the pin-hole image fails us.
    • p. 60
  • But the quality of the result obtained by using a pin-hole to which its advocates attach most importance is the suppression of sharp focus over the whole image, no one plane being more sharply focused than another.
    • p. 61

Printing methods and their bearing on pictorial photography[edit]

  • The objection to the shiny, highly polished surface of albumen and gelatine papers is that, besides the fact that the surface reflects false and disturbing lights, the very polish and gloss has an artificial appearance which, from its very superfine character, irresistibly reminds us of its origin and nature.
    • p. 71
  • We are then brought to consider Platinotype, which, on the whole, may be regarded as the most suitable for general pictorial work. Its power of rendering relative tones and atmosphere is perhaps unequalled, whilst, although every one who has used it has sometimes wished that the undeveloped image were more visible, yet the pale, ghost-like print made by the light is very much better than nothing at all, and, indeed, may often be quite sufficient to guide us in our endeavours to control the action of light in a manner to be shortly described.
    • p. 72
  • Inferior as a mechanical printing method for ordinary photographic purposes, the gum process may for a time at least be regarded as standing apart for pictorial purposes, because the large amount of personal control which must be exercised before it can be said to show distinct advantages over other methods implies that the controlling hand must be guided by an artist that is, a man of such large instinctive artistic taste that one can hardly conceive that he would be able to produce a better result by painting, and without the use of photography at all, were he to devote the same skill and endeavour to the employment of brush or pencil, instead of photographic appliances.
    • p. 73

Printing the picture and controlling its formation[edit]

  • Probably every photographer has at times found it convenient to print one part of a negative more than another or lias covered another portion during printing, thus deliberately making those portions lighter or darker, as the case may be.
    • p. 76
  • He (the photographer) has practically created a new thing out of materials gathered from nature; upon a foundation of fact he has allowed his imagination to build up an entirely fictitious scene, and the truth of the effect will depend upon how far his perceptions have been trained by studying nature at various times, so as to know how things might look under certain circumstances.
    • p. 78
  • In such a picture the artist may depart from actual fact, from what actually was, so long as he does not exceed what might have been.
    • p. 78
  • ...let it be remembered that as photography is our chosen medium, then if photography unaided will give us the effect we want there is no especial virtue in altering it.
    • p. 79
  • There is a difference in printing greater depth to any portion with the negative and shading down without the negative. In the former case we get a deeper and stronger image, still preserving to a great extent the relative contrasts between the lights and shades in that portion. This is not always what we require. In order to concentrate attention upon that is, to emphasize, some particular spot, it may be desirable to shade down and flatten some portion.
    • p. 88
  • Both with the negative in position and subsequently without it, every part of a large print is, maybe, thus printed in, piece by piece, a large print often occupying me two or three days.
    • p. 88
  • The texture of the printed image is of such peculiar character that neither brush or liquid paint seem capable of imitating it.
    • p. 90
  • The moment the eye perceives that the picture is produced by other than the professed means, the effect, the appeal to the imagination, is disturbed.
    • p. 90
  • Art seeks ever to conceal the means by which its effects are produced and the method in which the work is wrought.
    • p. 90

Clouds. Their use, and practical instructions as to how to photography them[edit]

  • ...skies and clouds were still regarded as something quite apart from the rest of the picture, and, indeed, are still so regarded by the less advanced.
    • p. 92
  • The sky is as much an essential part of the picture as any other part of it, and indeed, in very many instances, constitutes the key-note and important feature of the whole idea.
    • p. 92
  • Should any of my readers have failed to get useful cloud negatives, and are close upon giving up in despair, as I have known many to be, I would recommend them to forthwith take a slow plate, insert F 45 stop in the lens, and make a quick shutter exposure on some wellmarked sun -lit clouds. Then develop with a slightly diluted developer, and see what comes of it. Probably, if the clouds be heavy, they will be a little under-exposed. Then, from this as a basis it should not be difficult to get on the right road.
    • p. 93

Perspective of clouds[edit]

  • A little thought, however, will show that both aerial and linear perspective play as important a part in the heavens as on the earth beneath.
    • p. 96
  • As a general rule, therefore, the lights and shadows of clouds near the horizon are less vivid than in clouds higher up. Exceptions to this rough rule will be found when the source of light is near the horizon, as in sunset and sunrise, also when there is a gathering of local stormclouds which may hover over the distance as a dark pall, when there is fair weather and light, transparent clouds near to us.
    • p. 100
  • In rave cases, if the sun be behind the observer, the distant land may catch a powerful ray of sunlight, whilst the clouds overhanging it may remain in shadow, and hence light buildings, yellow cornfields, etc., may appear lighter than the distant clouds, but they at the same time gain in an appearance of nearness.
    • p. 100

Illumination of clouds and the direction of light[edit]

  • This is another matter that will need careful study, because the earth, having only one chief source of light, it follows that if clouds be printed into a landscape, both must show evidence of being lighted from the same direction.
    • p. 101
  • … nature often produces combinations and effects which on paper appear incorrect.
    • p. 101

Composition and clouds considered as an aid to expression[edit]

  • It should be a point for careful consideration, then, that with due consideration for perspective, lighting, etc., those clouds should be chosen for a landscape which, together with the landscape, will make a well-composed, well-balanced, and symmetrical whole.
    • p. 104
  • It must not be supposed that it is always necessary to present our landscapes with an attractive and well-defined arrangement of clouds; on the contrary, it will often happen that the effect of a scene is best emphasized by a mere grey tint representing a covered sky or even a blue, cloudless sky; but this is a very different thing to rendering it as a white blank.
    • p. 105

Development of negatives[edit]

  • A good negative is one thing, but a negative that will enable us to get a good picture is another.
    • p. 106
Summer clouds
  • … generally speaking, a thin negative, one with a minimum of contrast and density, yet with just sufficient to give the amount of contrast required in the print, should be aimed at; but it must possess very soft gradation throughout.
    • p. 106
  • If the reader now asks what do I think of this paper or that process, of this brand of plates or of that ? Is intensification or reduction to be resorted to ? Are enlargements as good as direct work ? I have but one answer to all, and that is that only those methods are good which will give you a satisfactory realization of the idea you have in mind. Any paper or process which will do this is good. If an enlargement from a small negative seems to give a fairly satisfactory expression of the idea intended, and the smaller direct print fails, there is your answer; and neither the writer or any one else has any knowledge which can give you a better.
    • p. 107
  • Size, the mere number of square inches, of a picture, counts for nothing. A small picture may be quite as satisfying as a large; for remember that, as compared with the size of the mountain itself, the difference between a picture of it, thirty inches long, and one of six inches, is less than trifling.
    • p. 108

Part II : Practical Pictorial Photography[edit]

  • The practice of Pictorial Photography cannot be taught by a Kindergarten system; the mere comparison with typical examples must be accompanied with a right understanding of underlying principles and theory.
    • p. 1
  • I have sometimes felt that writers on the artistic aspect of photography have too often, like the reformers of religious creeds, led their followers into a condition of disbelief and unrest, and then left them to find out for themselves how to live up to new and vague beliefs, so many writers on Pictorial Photography have told us what to avoid without saying why, and have then told us what to do without showing how.
    • p. 2

Fidelity to nature and justifiable untruth[edit]

  • … what the photographer has to be urged, persuaded and argued with, to do, are often matters which the artist never needs to think about, because it would be unnatural to him not to act in unconscious obedience thereto.
    • p. 3
  • be able to say of a representation that it is "exactly like Nature " is by no means equivalent to saying that it is a fine picture.
    • p. 3
  • It must ever be borne in mind that the prime object of all fine arts is to please through some or other of the emotions which it stirs.
    • p.3
  • … especially considering that the whole matter of applying photography to purely artistic ends is in such a state of infancy, and that this idea of deliberate violation of truth to fact, for the sake of securing truth to ideas, has hardly yet been put into practice.
    • p. 14
  • Probably every portrait photographer resorts to some such "dodge" for making a face lighter or other similar purpose, and he finds that the application of water-color paint in ever so thin a wash makes so much difference to the printing density that blue is commonly used as being a quick printing color, the effect of which is therefore not so great; an equally dense layer of blue and of red to any portion of a negative would print very differently, the red shutting off the light action much more powerfully than the blue.
    • p. 20
  • The different degree of light interference between blue and red also affords a power which we may be glad to avail ourselves, in some cases using the red where a very marked degree of lightening is desired, or blue where only a trifling difference is needed.
    • p. 21
  • … it may suggest whether a negative made by camera and lens is always an essential, or indeed if a negative at all is needed so long as we can produce a light-painted image at our will.
    • p. 24

Clouds in their relation to the landscape[edit]

  • Justification must be sought in the fact that "no very great incongruity is observable."
    • p. 27
  • A picture whether or not it is really true to fact must above all things appear true.
    • p. 29

The consideration of some examples of sharp and suppressed definition[edit]

  • ...the purpose of a picture is not veracity to fact so much as truthfulness to idea; that is to say, it is not a question of what eye sees nor even what the brain imagines, but it is a question of what kind of production best awakens in the mind of the beholder the ideas which the maker of the picture desires him to receive.
    • p. 37
  • The utmost care and forethought, and no little manipulative skill, are necessary to control the defining power of the lens or detail printing power of a sharply focused negative.
    • p. 39
  • ...but record and recognition are not pictorial qualities.
    • p. 44

Some examples in composition[edit]

  • It is the subjects which might be imitated by pieces of paper of varying depth of color laid one over the other, which are the subjects that will give more readily the greater satisfaction.
    • p. 60

Some practical suggestions on the selection of the subject and a note on the subject of motive[edit]

  • In selecting our subject then we have two things to consider. First, is it as good as the conditions will let it be - that is, have we chosen the point of view which, with the present conditions, shows at its best pictorially, and secondly, if taken from this point now, are the alterations we would like, weather or light, to make for us of such a kind that we can introduce them for ourselves when printing, and, if so, what are those alterations.

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