Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Pose

Twice Told Tuesday features a photography related article reprinted from
my collection of old photography books, magazines, and newspapers.

Is it any wonder those who sat for a photograph were uncomfortable? It could have been the headrest, the chair, the unfamiliar surroundings, or the attitude of the photographer. Perhaps that is why our ancestors looked so pained.

The Professional and Amateur Photographer
April 1910

is the pose? If the question was asked of twenty operators, I doubt if two could give an answer so that one would know any more than before he asked. No two operators would make the same pose nor lighting of the same subject.

This was fully proven by our friend, F. Dundas Todd, several years ago when he had twelve operators of national reputation make a sitting each of him. The twelve pictures were published, and Todd looked anything from a preacher up to a criminal, and yet each man thought he had posed and lighted Todd to the best advantage. Now, who was right and who wrong? As I see it the pose depends more upon the accessories that enter into the picture than any other one thing.

It may be argued that no accessories were used. Something was used. The subject was not suspended in mid air. He or she must have been seated, or standing in front of some sort of a ground. Now, the ground and posing chair are accessories and the pose is going to be controlled largely by them. For half figures and full figures something must be used and whatever accessory is used has just so many positions or poses contained in it.

Different chairs must be used differently. No two can be used the same at all times. The operator gets into the habit of using a certain chair or pedestal for a certain position and there is the end of his posing. Another operator may have identically the same accessory, but pose on it differently. Now if the third operator can in addition to his own positions make those of the other two he is just so much better than they are. But there is a limit to the availability of every accessory.

Hence the operator should have at his disposal a variety to select from. At one of the conventions several years ago, a well known operator was asked, "How do you pose your subjects?" His answer was. "That never bothers me; what bothers me is to keep them from posing."

There it is in a nutshell. The average man or woman begins to pose just as soon as he or she enters the studio, and the result is a posey picture if the operator cannot get him or her out of it. The photographer in the small town is bothered more in this respect than his city brother, for the reason that the trade of the small place as a rule are not so much in "society" as that of the city, and often are from the country, and when going to a studio are entirely out of their element.

This causes a nervousness that results in a stiffness that is hard to overcome. Again the country trade are not in the habit of wearing "society" clothes so much as the city "belles" and "swells," and that causes them to feel that they must look and act differently at the time of their sitting from their usual custom.

The "society" butterflies do nothing but pose. Their whole life is nothing but a pose, and they grow into it. so that it is an easy matter to get them at their ease in the handsome studio of the city photographer. They are used to it, for that's their life. So the country photographer has to "pose" his people differently from the city photographer. He must have accessories for his place that possibly would not suit his city brother.

So here we are brought up against it again: What is the pose? It's all folly to talk about giving a farmer a characteristic pose, for if we did so, we would have him standing in the middle of a field pitching hay, and we know he wouldn't give thirty cents for a cartload of such pictures. They may please some snapshot crank who hasn't anything better to do than to make freak stuff and call it art.

The farmer doesn't want art. He is after a picture of himself, dressed in his best "go to meetin' duds," and if you can't give it to him at so much per, he will get it further down the street. He is no different in that respect from hundreds and thousands of others.

Young Farmer in his
Sunday Best

Now, how are you going to pose him, to please him. Or are you going to please the cranks who want freaks for pictures; or at least they call them pictures. Every customer wants to look his best in his picture, and the operator must place lines, and introduce curves, and tone down harsh outlines just as much and as carefully in one as another.

The only difference being that the "society" bunch can help him do it, but the farmer can't. Therefore if the country operator makes as good work as the city man, he is the best operator, for he has more to do.



Anonymous. "The Pose." The Professional and Amateur Photographer. April 1910. <http://books.google.com>. (15 January 2009).


Anonymous Young Farmer. (Marquette). Cabinet Card. Unknown date. Privately held by (Name and Address Withheld by Request of Owner). 2009


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