Studio: international art — 60.1914

Page: 86
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The Lay Figure

The lay figure : on the


“Would you count photography among
the arts?” asked the Man with the Red Tie.
“ The modern photographer claims to be an artist;
is his claim a just one?”

“Surely the men who produce such work as you
see in the photographic exhibitions must be counted
as artists,” said the Plain Man. “ I am sure that
photography in their hands has become a real art,
and the results they achieve with it must be taken
in all seriousness; they are certainly quite as
deserving of consideration from an artistic point of
view as a good many of the paintings one sees at
picture exhibitions.”

“Yet photography is after all only a mechanical
process,” broke in the Art Critic, “and the products
of a mechanical process are not usually accepted as
works of art.”

“ That is just the point,” agreed the Man with
the Red Tie; “but cannot a mechanical process
be used to produce really artistic results by men
who have the taste to apply it in a legitimate
manner ? ”

“ Oh yes, that is quite possible,” returned the
Critic, “and the'degree of taste possessed by the
man who handles the camera will certainly be
reflected in the character of the work he does.
The artist’s sense will dominate and direct the
craft he employs, whatever it may be; and even
though he arrives at his results by the use of
mechanical devices his productions will be signifi-
cant because of the artistic feeling that has inspired

“ But photography has ceased to be a mechanical
process,” cried the Plain Man. “ Every photo-
grapher nowadays has his own way of working, and
no two of them work alike. You cannot call a
craft mechanical which offers so much scope for
individuality of expression and yields such a great
variety of results.”

“You cannot get away from the fact that what
the photographer uses to produce those results is
a machine,” laughed the Critic. “ It is a flexible
and adaptable machine, I admit, but he cannot do
anything without it.”

“ Surely he does a great deal without it,” protested
the Plain Man. “What he gets with his camera is
only the foundation upon which he builds some-
thing that is entirely personal, something that the
machine certainly would not give him. The camera
plays but a small part in the modern photograph;
it is the clever handwork of the photographer that

makes the print he shows us so original and so

“ But is that print to be reckoned as a photograph
at all ?” inquired the Man with the Red Tie. “ Or
is it an independent creation, the work of an artist ?
It seems to me that it ends by being neither one
nor the other.”

“ I should decidedly call it a work of art,” replied
the Plain Man, “ for its qualities are given to it by
the handling of a man who has the ambitions and
capacities of an artist.”

“ But tell me, would you recognise the print as a
genuine photograph ? ” persisted the Man with the
Red Tie.

“ No, of course not,” returned the Plain Man-
“ That is where the modern photographer is so clever.
He will show you things that you could not tell from
etchings or chalk drawings, he will give you even the
most effective imitations of water-colour paintings;
he can simulate the qualities of almost all the other
pictorial arts. ...”

“ Ah, wait a minute ! ” cried the Critic. “ He
can simulate ! There you give him away. The
real artist does not try to deceive you by pretend-
ing to be what he is not. He does not seek to
disguise the qualities of his medium, but rather to
convince you by the way in which he recognises
them and turns them to account. If photography,
to be successful, has to deny its own qualities and
to depend upon imitation of other pictorial pro-
cesses, it assuredly can be given only a minor place
among the arts. If the photographer is to rank
as an artist he must be as other artists are, an
independent creator using his medium for all it is
worth and respecting the limitations which are
bound up with it.”

“ And what is photography, pure and simple,
worth as a medium for artistic expression ? ” asked
the Plain Man.

“A very great deal, I sincerely believe,” replied
the Critic. “ The camera is a piece of mechanism
which will, if properly used, record subtleties of
tone gradation, qualities of light and shade, and
varieties of detail, with an exquisiteness that is
wholly impossible by any other means. In the
hands of an artist who can appreciate the vast
possibilities of such a machine it will do almost
anything; and with its assistance and by the
exercise of his selective sense he can arrive at
results which will have an undeniable right to be
regarded as true works of art. But they must be
true photographs at the same time ; there must
be no deception about them.”

The Lay Figure.
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