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Arthur Hammond (1880 - 1962) was a pictorialist photographer, who has written books like Pictorial Composition in Photography.
Pictorial Composition in Photography (1920)
- A view or a landscape will impress different people in different ways, just as a human individual will.
- The emotions suggested by facts, not the facts themselves, are what concern the picture maker. This is where he is differentiated from those who seek to make only records and who are concerned only with facts.
- This is composition; knowing what to select, how to arrange, what to emphasize or eliminate and how to do it...
- ...I want to make it clear that the success of a picture, as a picture, does not depend upon topographical interest of the subject, but on the ability of the photographer to convey impressions of beauty or interest by his manner of treating it.
- The would-be picture-maker must learn to think pictorially; he must try to regard a picture as a pattern, as an arrangement of lines and shapes, making in themselves a pleasing and satisfying design, quite apart from the objects represented. The lines will form certain shapes, and the shapes will vary in tone; some may be light, some dark and some of intermediate shades of gray, which we call halftones.
- I do want to make it clear that the success of the picture does not depend entirely upon the beauty of the subject, but mainly upon the manner in which the picture-maker uses his pictorial material.
- The very word composition, defined as the "the act of composing; putting together; arranging in proper order," implies that the picture-maker must do something besides setting up his camera and letting it photograph just what happens before it.
- ...but the fundamental element of picture-making is the cutting of the picture-space by lines or edges of tones, and this is what is known as "spacing".
- ...I would recommend the photographer to regard the focusing-screen of his camera as a space to be divided into a pleasing pattern, rather than as a glass on which a reduced facsimile of a scene or view or a miniature likeness of a person can be seen.
- The areas of tones are called masses and, whatever the subject of picture may be, its success as a picture depends very largely on the effectiveness of the spacing and massing.
- Lines have expression, and by the use of lines alone we can suggest impressions.
- A curved line, as a rule, will convey an impression of beauty more strongly than a straight line; a curve can be vastly more satisfying and pleasing than a tangent.
- The main object of interest should not be in the exact centre of picture-space, because that is where we imagine the fulcrum of the steelyard balance to be.
- Too many lines and too many objects of equal importance in a picture will cause confusion, discomfort and eye-strain.
- So photography, having a place among artistic processes, has its own distinguishing quality which cannot be duplicated by any other medium.
- A photograph can be made with an uncorrected lens, or with no lens at all by making an exposure through a fine needle-hole in a thin metal disc, and the result may be a picture showing the characteristic virtue of photography, the rendering of infinitely delicate gradations of tone. This is where photography stands alone, and this is the distinguishing quality which has given it a place among the fine arts.
- Where light falls on an object and is reflected back to the eye, we see a highlight; where it strikes at an angle and is reflected back other than directly to the eye we see halftones; where no direct light falls on the object we have shadows: and these highlights, halftones and shadows are modified by light reflected into them by other objects and by other parts of the same object.
- ...even if our range of tones is shorter and we have to compress the tones into a shorter scale, we can preserve truth of value only by keeping the tones in about the same relative proportions. We should make our lightest tone light and our darkest tone dark, and then get in as many tones as we can in between.
- Practically speaking, the securing of true tones in a photograph depends entirely upon the exposure.
- A. J. Anderson says: "Expose for the tones that are most desired."
- The picture-space should be filled, but need not be crowded, and it must be remembered that in judging balance, not only the masses of the subject, but also the shapes of the area remaining after being cut into by the outlines of these masses, have a bearing on the general design of the picture.
- The lack of hard edges and the entire absence of that biting hardness of definition that is unavoidable with some lenses is just what the picture maker wants.
- The treatment of the subject is considered to be more important than the subject itself.
- I am a firm upholder of and a strong believer in the merits of the straight print, not that I disapprove of hand work, but because I believe that hand work carried too far will tend to destroy the very quality that makes photography worth of being considered a fine art.
- Photography, properly controlled, can render tones better than any other medium of artistic expression, and personal control of exposure and development will be all that is necessary to get good tones and truthful gradations, for the camera, properly guided and then left to do its own job in its own way, will take care of the tones of a picture very well.
- A small but noticeable patch of contrasting light or dark tone would more correctly be described as an accent than as a mass, and it will be found that, as a rule, an accent is needed to prevent a picture from becoming monotonous and uninteresting.
- It will be found, as a general rule, that a point about one-third of the width of the picture-space from the top or bottom of the picture, and about one-third from one side, will be a strong position for such an accent. These points may be found by imagining that your picture-space is divided both vertically and horizontally into three equal strips by lines that will cross each other at four points. Each of these four intersection points will be a strong position, and an accent at any one of these points will be well placed in the picture-space. It will not matter at all what the shape of the picture may be, whether it be an upright or a horizontal rectangle, or a square, these four points, each of them one-third of the width of the picture-space from top or bottom and one side, will be strong points.
- The laws of principality and unity, harmony and balance, must always be observed. The picture should tell one story, and only one.
- A painter, by the skilful use of color, can make idyllic pictures in which a figure or a group of figures is not the dominant thing in the picture, but for a photographer this is more difficult.
- The eye is, practically, a long-focus lens. It covers only a comparatively narrow angle, and in order to see as much as can be included in a picture made with a short-focus lens we have to move the eyes a little and look at the various objects in succession.
- For outdoor work, landscape and marine pictures, a long-focus lens is usually more satisfactory, because with it we can more easily isolate and emphasize the principal object of interest, and make it large enough without having to get too close.
- ...there is another kind of perspective that is of great importance in picture-making. This is known as aerial perspective, and this kind of perspective imparts "atmosphere" and depth to a picture, and gives a suggestion of space and distance in an outdoor view.
- An ordinary photographic plate or film is abnormally sensitive to the light rays at the violet end of the spectrum and is strongly affected by the ultra-violet rays, which are invisible though they are present in sunlight, but it is practically insensitive to red and to the colors at the red end of the spectrum. Therefore, an ordinary plate sees red as black and is affected only very little by orange and yellow, so that those colors appear very dark while, on the other hand, being so sensitive to blue and violet, these colors are made to appear too light. That is why we can use a red light in the darkroom, as the plate is affected, practically, not at all by red light.
- One of the most important qualities a picture can possess is simplicity. This is true not only of photographic pictures but also of drawings, paintings or etchings. By being simple a picture gains enormously in strength and effectiveness; it wears well; one can live with it and enjoy it without getting tired of it.
- ...the accuracy of the lens is often regarded as infallible, whereas, from the artistic standpoint, a lens is less accurate than the trained eye.
- There is a tendency among "advanced" pictorialists to neglect the choice of an interesting subject and to trust to an effective pattern to make their pictures interesting. Such pictures are often interesting, but they are interesting more as studies in artistic technique than as pictures.
- ...it is essential to have only one principal object of interest in a picture. Without it the picture is not completely satisfying, for the eye is apt to wander over the surface of the picture, seeking rest and finding none.
- ...the composition in portraiture and figure studies may be constructive rather than selective, though it will be found that selective composition also plays an important part in portraiture.
- The function of composition is to make a picture interesting, and the disposition of the lines in the picture, the opposition of lines, and their placing in the picture-space will all help in giving the desired interest.
- There is as much difference in the meaning of the words tone and tones as there is in the words nerve and nerves.
- There should be no very violent contrasts and no spottiness of light and shade, and, above all, the tones must be right.
- The artist, and more especially he who uses a camera, must enedeavor to be, not a mere recorder of external facts, but one who forms a vivid mental impression and tries to make us realize his impression.
- ...picture-making is almost entirely a matter of good taste, and that is largely instinctive when the taste has been trained and cultivated.
- To learn to see pictorially is the first essential duty of the would-be picture-maker.
- Nature is interesting at all times, but, as a general rule, very harsh and glaring sunlight, when the sun is high in the heavens, should be avoided, because at such times there is an often an utter lack of relief, roundness and modeling in the trees and other objects.
- ...shading is of great importance, and good shadows can best be secured when the sun is low, and when one side of of all objects is more strongly lighted than the other.
- Plates and films possess great latitude, it is true, but too short an exposure always has a tendency to cause a loss of atmosphere.
- The success of the picture depends entirely upon the exposure; very little can be done in development to correct errors in timing, and it is the shadows that must be considered in judging the exposure.
- Platinum is undoubtedly the process for the pictorialist, for it will reproduce gradations and halftones more delicately and with a longer range than any other similar printing process, but it demands a good negative to do it justice.
- A photographer must have as sound a knowledge of picture-making as a painter, and he must have such control over his chosen medium that he can put personal expression and his own individuality into his pictures.
- Just because a picture is unusually low in tone, it is not necessarily pictorial.
- It must be understood that in picture-making the methods used by one photographer may be entirely unsuited to another. This must be so, or there would be little or no individuality in pictures by different artists.