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Extraction from The American Journal of Photography by Various

“If any one wants to become thoroughly acquainted with the weaknesses and frailties of humanity, just let him become a camera carrier, in “all that the word implies,”–and he will enter a school, wherein he will learn more of the different phases of human nature in one lesson than he has during the last ten years of his life. No other vocation, if we except that of the live newspaper reporter, offers the same advantages in this biological study. Varied indeed are the experiences and vicissitudes of the amateur photographer, whether the camera bearer carries the latest Universal, with aluminium mounting, or rejoices in a Premium Pinhole outfit, he experiences the same annoyances and disappointments. Ignorant and unreasonable people are sure to be met with on an outing, and, worse than all, he has frequently to suffer for the sins of some rude member of the guild who has been there before him. Experiences like these are but too apt to discourage persons of a nervous or sensitive temperament; the picture, however, is not all shadows. There is often a bright side for the camera bearer, especially if he be susceptible of the humorous. Photographically speaking, the writer, in addition to such annoyances as double exposures, unaccountable fog, forgetting to draw the slide, put plates in the holder, or take the cap off, to say nothing of neglecting to insert the stop, has met with many rebuffs and disappointments on his outings, through meeting with ignorant or unreasonable people, in all such cases his rule has been always to look upon the comical side of the situation, and try to achieve his object, bringing into play his common sense, tact and knowledge of human nature, generally with the result of obtaining the coveted negative.

The trouble, however, does not always lay in the strangers we meet in our travels; the fault too often is with the camera bearer. There is a class of persons, largely represented among the guild of amateur photographers, who presume entirely too much on their wealth or social standing, and who at home pride themselves on their good breeding and polite manners, claiming to be within the so-called exclusive social circles or sets; yet they no sooner get away from the restraint of their immediate surroundings, such as a photographic outing affords, than they seem to forget that at least a little courtesy is due the strangers on whose premises they trespass. The dweller in a picturesque tumble-down shanty, or custodian of an old colonial or religious land mark, no matter in how humble circumstances of life they may be, have rights guaranteed them under the law, which even the exclusive amateur is bound to respect. One specimen of this kind will often spoil the game for all amateurs for some time to come. We will give a few instances which have come under our notice.

Early last spring two prominent members of the Quaker City Camera Club concluded to photograph an historic old church in one of the German counties (so-called) in our state. The place was rather difficult of access, being away from the usual lines of modern travel, so extensive preparations were made. The day proved all that could be desired. A team had been telegraphed for, and met the pair at the nearest railroad station. When the spot was reached the outfits were quickly unpacked and set up. No permission was asked, nor notice was taken of flower-beds trampled over, or other damage done. Then the bell of the parsonage was rung,–the clergyman answered the call in person. The spokesman, great in his own importance, asked for the keys of the church, as they wished to photograph it. The dominie answered, with an unmistakable Pennsylvania Dutch accent, that the sexton lived about a half a mile down the road. The reply was, that as he had a key it did not suit them to run after the sexton. Well, one word brought on the other, and the parley ended with the clergyman saying, “You will please excuse me; I got no time to fool with such nonsense, and I can’t be bothered with opening the church for every fool photographer who chooses to come out here from town; please go about your business, if you have any.” The interview closed with the threat by the parson to use a hoe-handle over the next photographers who should come to bother him with their intrusiveness. Our two amateurs packed up their outfits and beat an ignominious retreat, going back to Philadelphia with temper ruffled and object unaccomplished.

A few days after this episode one of the twain, wishing to have some sport at our expense, suggested to the secretary of the Leopardville Camera Club the advisability of a trip to the adjoining county, and securing for him a set of negatives of the old landmark. We knew nothing of what happened, and consequently, owing to our innocence and unsophisticated nature, we unconsciously fell into the snare that our kind friend laid for us on the first fine day. We made an early start. We went merrily over hill and dale, not dreaming of trouble. When within half a mile of the church, we stopped at a roadside inn to water our horse and inquire our way. We remembered the hostler, who, while reigning up, caught a glance at our outfit. To our surprise, he broke out with, “Say, Mishter, vas you a fotegraf feller?” “Why?” we queried. “Vell, if you vas, tont go to der kärch up dere; der breecher letzt woch putty near broke zwei fotegraf feller’s het’s up.” Here was a revelation. Our nickel had been well invested. We made closer inquiries,–from the description, we at once recognized our friend from the Quaker City who had suggested our trip, and was no doubt chuckling in anticipation of a countryman’s discomfiture. After a few moments’ thought we continued on our way. We met the dominie, and when we got back to our home we had eight negatives, exteriors and interiors, in our satchel. In one of the latter the dominie appears in the quaint old pulpit. With our ten dollar outfit, by the use of civility, tact, and common sense, we had accomplished that in which our predecessors had so signally failed, mainly by not exercising the common civility due towards a stranger.

Another case which came under our notice but a few weeks ago: In an adjoining county there still exist several quaint old buildings, erected during the middle of last century by a religious community, and used by them until long after the Revolution. Owing to the curious architecture and proximity to a summer resort, the property is often overrun by visitors and sightseers, who run over the grounds, enter the houses, intrude on the privacy of the inmates, as if they had no rights of their own whatever, and in fact act as if the whole premises were public property. The custodian or trustee of the property is a plain country Dutchman, and keeps an especially sharp lookout for amateur photographers, as the religious sect to which he belongs frowns down portraiture of any kind. A few weeks ago a party of nine or ten persons, ladies and gentlemen, made a pilgrimage to the old settlement under the leadership of a well-known pulpit orator in Pennsylvania. Among the party were several amateur photographers. When the party arrived at the grounds they entered, without as much as asking permission, and at once made themselves at home within the premises regardless of the inmates. While the amateurs were setting up their cameras, the preacher was airing his knowledge of the religious doctrines of the community which flourished there in days gone by. While making these derogatory allusions, the party had been joined by a stranger,–it was the trustee, and who lost no time in introducing himself to the preacher. The two men were a study for an artist. The preacher, who prided himself on his fine physique, oratorial powers, and dignity, was the ideal picture of the petted fashionable preacher of the present day. The other, a man of medium height, bare-footed, unkempt; a straw-hat of last season’s growth, a shirt of unbleached muslin, a pair of overalls, which hung by a single “gallus,” completed his wardrobe; his language was pure and unalloyed Pennsylvania Dutch.

In appearance the two men as they faced each other were as diametrically opposite as the poles. The trustee, without any ceremony, asked the preacher what he was doing there; the latter, looking down at the speaker with contempt and scorn, and nettled at the interruption, curtly told him to attend to his own affairs. This was more than the trustee could stand, and he at once ordered the party to pack up and get out. This in turn was too much for the preacher; so, turning to the trustee, said, “My good fellow, you seem not to know whom you are addressing; I am the Rev. Dr. —-, of —- Church, in Philadelphia, and I wish you to understand that you are in the presence of ladies and gentlemen, and I would advise you to take yourself off without ado, as your presence here is unwarranted, uncalled for, and distasteful to the persons present as well as myself personally; and further, your appearance is hardly such as would be permitted within the circles in which the ladies present are in the habit of moving.” During this speech the trustee stood with mouth and eyes wide open. The others of the party nodded approval as their spiritual leader was delivering himself. One of the photographers was trying to train his camera on the countryman, who had for a few moments stood speechless. But it was only the calm before the coming storm. With a bound the trustee kicked over the tripod and camera; then, turning to the preacher in an unmistakable attitude, told him in his rich German English, that he was on private property, tramping down a growing grass crop, and if he and his crowd didn’t pack themselves off at once he would arrest and fine the party for trespassing. “But, my good fellow,” ventured the now crestfallen preacher. “Don’t speak to me!” was the retort. “You claim to be a gentleman; maybe you try to be at home. But if you were one, you would know better than coming with a crowd on another’s place, where you have no business, without even asking permission.” “But, my good man, we are willing to pay you if–” broke in the preacher. “We don’t want your money. All I want is for you to go and not bother us. Or do you want me to show you the way?” All this was said in the rich vernacular peculiar to the locality. There was no help; the trustee was on his own ground. So the party retreated and filed singly over the old stile into the road. It would be hard to say which of the party felt the sadder as they wended their way towards their conveyance, the crestfallen preacher or the Rittenhouse amateur with his shattered outfit.

This was but another instance where a little courtesy and politeness would have saved humiliation and photographic disappointment.

  1. Focus Snapschotte.


A Record in Development.–Many amateurs are so fidgety about their dark-room and its appendages that we describe, both for the benefit of the finic and also for “those who go down to the sea”–in trains, how an extemporized traveling dark-room was successfully used by a member of the newly founded Croydon Camera Club.

In case the railway superintendent should reprimand the guard who connived at the measures adopted, we must perforce suppress the gentleman’s name, the date, and the station where the train was joined.

About a fortnight ago Mr. X. ran down for the day to visit his friend Y., who dwells somewhere on the south coast, within about one and a half hour’s journey from Croydon. Mr. X. having exposed sixteen quarter-plates, Y. enquired of him when they would be developed. “To-night,” answered X., and added, “Perhaps before I get to Croydon.” Y. expressed incredulity, on which X. guaranteed that he would have all the plates developed before reaching his destination.

No previous preparation had been made, and the train started in forty minutes from the time of above conversation. A sheet of ruby paper, some drawing pins, some oiled paper, and a piece of Willesden waterproof paper, together with Beach’s developer, in two solutions, were procured. The guard was duly “tipped,” and a pail of water obtained from the engine-driver. Mr. X. being safely locked in a third-class compartment, the Willesden paper was made into a tray, with sides three inches deep, on account of the swaying of the train. The ruby paper was pinned over the carriage lamp, and the blinds carefully drawn. The night was, fortunately, a dark one. Most of the plates were shutter views; these were first developed, the developer being used for about three plates and then thrown away. The time views were subsequently developed, with a suitable modification in the proportions of developer. The plates were well rinsed in the pail of water, and while wet wrapped in oiled paper, and thus packed in the ordinary boxes in which they are sold; the object of using oiled paper being that it does not stick to the film when the latter is either dry or wet. The plates were all developed before Red Hill was reached; the fixing being deferred until arriving home.

The resulting negatives were not noticeably inferior to those which the same worker generally produces in his dark-room. We have before us a print of a wreck with fisher-boats “salving,” which is distinctly above the average skilled amateur work.

If so good a result is attained by adapting a railway carriage on the spur of the moment, even better could be done by pre-arranging to make use of the dreary time spent in traveling by night. The above tour de force is a strong argument in favor of those railway companies who run journeys of from five hours upwards, such as the Scotch express, providing a well-fitted but inexpensive dark-room. A luggage van might be converted, with an open compartment for workers to sit in when their “dark deeds” are done.

A pleasant vision is opened up of snap-shot views, taken from a railway carriage, and developed during the journey. Of course, plates need not be exposed while the train is “hurtling” along at seventy miles an hour; but in a, say, ten hours’ journey there are many stoppages and slackenings of speed which a member of the “wideawakes” could profitably utilize.–The Amateur Photographer”

Source: Project Gutenberg

The American Journal of Photography by Various



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