Camera Work: A Photographic Quarterly — 1910 (Heft 32)

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showing you the only writing of the master on the subject—I took the liberty
of presenting him with a few reproductions of Hill’s portraits and you can read
on the screen his reply:
iio Rue du Bac,
Paris.
Dear Sir,
How very kind and nice of you to send me those most curiously attractive
photographs—I should more simply say pictures, for they certainly are pictures,
and very fine ones, too.
Pray accept my best thanks for your present, and for the flattering thought
that prompted it. TT r r „
Very faithfully yours,
J. M’Neill Whistler.
May 26tb, 1893.
I have referred to the imagination as being the chief factor in the equip-
ment of the pictorial photographer, and you may ask what part imagination
can play in a mechanical process. It appears to me that there are two kinds
of aesthetic imagination: One which evolves a scheme of beauty from the
inner consciousness and expresses itself in color schemes and compositions
based upon, although sometimes distantly, the appearance of natural objects;—
and one which enables its possessor to observe the perfect schemes which
nature occasionally provides, and which are capable of realization by means of
apparatus and processes. The point I wish to emphasize is, that to produce the
best possible work of art in photography it is essential that the worker should
have artistic abilities of the highest order, or in other words a photographic
picture cannot be of a higher order than the intelligence of the photographer.
The art of etching had a Rembrandt to exploit it in its early days, and
I am convinced that the position of photography as a vehicle of artistic expres-
sion cannot be determined until it has been seriously practiced by a master.
Meantime, if I cannot show you the work of an absolute master, I hope to be
able to show you in the series of slides which I have prepared, that something
has already been accomplished.
The first is a self-portrait by Eduard Steichen, and the slide is a repro-
duction of what is termed a gum print. The peculiar quality of a gum print is
that at one stage of the process of production the print is in a soft state, some-
what analogous to a recently painted oil picture, and while it is in this state
liberties may be taken with it by rubbing off portions of the semi-fluid picture.
This process has been a very popular one with many workers during the last
few years, owing to the facility which it affords to alter unsatisfactory details,
but it is a method which is only safe in exceptionally competent hands, and I
regret to say that many of its present-day votaries cannot be so characterized.
Interesting as these gum prints may be, I am rather inclined to believe
that the most perfect work has been and will be done in pure photography,
for the reason that by pure photography one may reproduce objects, with
all their contours, tones, and modelling, with absolute fidelity. It follows

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