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03-15-2014, 02:05 PM   #1
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Some things never change...

It would seem that some things never change. A 120 years later and it
sounds like we are still going at it. APS-C vs FF or phonecam vs PS?

An excerpt:

The Hand Camera–Its Present Importance
ALFRED STIEGLITZ From The American Annual of Photography, 1897, pp.

It was, undoubtedly, due to the hand camera that photography became so
generally popular a few years ago. Every Tom, Dick and Harry could,
without trouble, learn how to get something or other on a sensitive
plate, and this is what the public wanted-no work and lots of fun.
Thanks to the efforts of these persons hand camera and bad work became
synonymous. The climax was reached when an enterprising firm flooded the
market with a very ingenious hand camera and the announcement, "You
press the button, and we do the rest." This was the beginning of the
"photographing-by-the-yard" era, and the ranks of enthusiastic Button
Pressers were enlarged to enormous dimensions. The hand camera ruled

But in the past year or two all this has been changed. There are many
who claim that for just the most serious work the hand camera is not
only excellently adapted, but that without it the pictorial photographer
is sadly handicapped.

To this let me add, that whatever camera may be chosen let it be
waterproof, so as to permit photographing in rain or shine without
damage to the box. The writer does not approve of complicated
mechanisms, as they are sure to get out of order at important moments,
thus causing considerable unnecessary swearing, and often the loss of a
precious opportunity. My own camera is of the simplest pattern and has
never left me in the lurch, although it has had some very tough handling
in wind and storm. Microscopic sharpness is of no pictorial value.

The one quality absolutely necessary for success in hand camera work is
Patience. This is really the keynote to the whole matter. It is amusing
to watch the majority of hand camera workers shooting off a ton of
plates helterskelter, taking their chances as to the ultimate result.
Once in a while these people make a hit, and it is due to this cause
that many pictures produced by means of the hand camera have been
considered flukes. At the same time it is interesting to note with what
regularity certain men seem to be the favorites of chance that it would
lead us to conclude that, perhaps, chance is not everything, after all.

In order to obtain pictures by means of the hand camera it is well to
choose your subject, regardless of figures, and carefully study the
lines and lighting. After having determined upon these watch the passing
figures and await the moment in which everything is in balance; that is,
satisfies your eye. This often means hours of patient waiting. My
picture, "Fifth Avenue, Winter,"* is the result of a three hours' stand
during a fierce snow-storm on February 22nd, 1893, awaiting the proper
moment. My patience was duly rewarded. Of course, the result contained
an element of chance, as I might have stood there for hours without
succeeding in getting the desired picture.

I remember how upon having developed the negative of the picture I
showed it to some of my colleagues. They smiled and advised me to throw
away such rot. "Why, it isn't even sharp, and he wants to use it for an

Such were the remarks made about what I knew was a piece of work quite
out of the ordinary, in that it was the first attempt at picture making
with the hand camera in such adverse and trying circumstances from a
photographic point of view. Some time later the laugh was on the other
side, for when the finished picture was shown to these same gentlemen it
proved to them conclusively that there was other photographic work open
to them during the "bad season" than that so fully set forth in the
photographic journals under the heading, "Work for the Winter Months."
This incident also goes to prove that the making of the negative alone
is not the making of the picture. My hand camera negatives are all made
with the express purpose of enlargement, and it is but rarely that I use
more than part of the original shot.

The hand camera has come to stay-its importance is acknowledged. A word
to the wise is sufficient.

*Winter, Fifth Avenue
By Alfred Stieglitz
George Eastman House

Last edited by wildman; 04-16-2014 at 04:15 AM.
03-15-2014, 02:10 PM   #2
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Wonder what the author would make of cell phone cams. Probably cry.

QuoteOriginally posted by wildman Quote
hand camera workers shooting off a ton of plates helterskelter, taking their chances as to the ultimate result. Once in a while these people make a hit,
03-15-2014, 02:50 PM   #3
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Just goes to prove that you must have a WR camera.
03-15-2014, 04:00 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by jatrax Quote
Wonder what the author would make of cell phone cams. Probably cry.
...or not. It is hard to say. Championing the hand-held camera for serious work was, at the time, pretty revolutionary. This much I do know, that those of us who view our photography as artistic expression owe Stieglitz a dept of gratitude. He almost single-handedly legitimized the medium from the perspective of the art world. I like this quote:

"Photography is not an art. Neither is painting, nor sculpture, literature or music. They are only different media for the individual to express his aesthetic feelings… You do not have to be a painter or a sculptor to be an artist. You may be a shoemaker. You may be creative as such. And, if so, you are a greater artist than the majority of the painters whose work is shown in the art galleries of today."


03-15-2014, 06:59 PM   #5
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Is it bad that I read this like a wikipedia article and kept mentally inserting [citation needed] [who?] tags, and so on? I may have spent too much time on the internet.
03-16-2014, 12:47 AM - 1 Like   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by narual Quote
I may have spent too much time on the internet.
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