Camera Work: A Photographic Quarterly — 1907 (Heft 17)

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THREE summer months of camera work in France,
chateau-hunting, deprived me of my wonted task of
decorating and hanging the Salon, and of participating
in the selecting-day’s duties. This gave me a certain
sense of detachment, when visiting the gallery to make
these notes, and I found my general impression, both
first and last, to be that it was dull; it lacked sparkle,
life, attractiveness, special intention; it seemed too
plainly only a photographic show. I did not feel in the
presence of a new art, or of any particularly new presentment of our art.
Though A. L. Coburn, my successor as hanger and decorator, has done his
difficult work with commendable judgment, I think his brown-paperback-
ground a mistake; it works out with a too indeterminate white effect by
reflected light, and is otherwise too much of one tone with the majority of
the pictures to afford the required relief; its broken surface worries from its
much crinkling. Paper is not a suitabie medium for a wall covering, unless
it be pasted down; this was of course impossible on these walls, and the re-
sult is an entire absence of even color or surface; indeed, the broken surface
suggests nothing but defects in the putting-up. The dull impression, as a
whole, is also helped by the too general keeping of each man's work together,
and the consequent non-mixing-up of light and dark mounts and pictures.
I still think that, for a public gallery, the purely decorative treatment is best;
to regard the frames and pictures as so much decorative material; so that
the walls shall first attract generally by the welcoming aspect of the room as
a whole, and thus stimulate to a closer inspection; whereas, I felt these walls
to almost repel, from their general dulness of effect. The only exception
I should make as to hanging one man’s work together, would be in the case
of the pictures being hung on one line only, no one above or below another.
One then goes from print to print, and does not lump several together in
one effect, which leads too often to mere monotony. The much fewer
number of frames accepted this year has given the hanger a much better
chance than I ever had of properly spacing the pictures; but I think he has
overdone this, and so has erred in placing many works of delicate effect or
detail far too high to be properly seen or appreciated. Many things, also,
are hung on the sight-line, which it would have been much wiser and kinder
to have hung as high as may be. The dulness of the exhibition also comes
from a too large admission of what I consider mediocre, or worse, prints.
It is more than absurd to see on the same wall with the Demachy's, for
instance, prints that ought really never be submitted to an important London
exhibition. It either means that the majority of the thousand and odd
prints submitted this year were really bad, for so many mediocre things to
pass, or that the committee got overtired and lost judgment, in which case,
some method of judging must be adopted, which will allow of a revision of
the accepted things. It should not be possible for a rejected contributor to

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