Comments by Alfred H Wall on

Excellence versus Cheapness

A H Wall commented that excellence was suffering as photographers pursued cheapness.

He said: "We make portraits as others manufacture pins;  so much money per gross, so much time, and no more, for the making."


A Photographer's View

'"Thought and feeling, technical and aesthetical beauty  -  pooh!   nonsense!  my dear misguided utopian friend!  we can't afford such luxuries. 

Here comes a sitter;  there is the head-rest fixed for all comers in one spot.  We cannot pause to pose;  we cannot waste time by considering the sitter's character, features, expressions, personal peculiarities are nothing to do with us."

The result of the competition and lower prices was hitting photographers.

Declining Businesses

"The natural result of this may be found in the many signs of decreasing prosperity - in the many photographic studios vacant and idle where we once every month almost saw the erection of some new glass-rooms - in the ever-increasing list of advertisements of respectable businesses to be let or sold constantly visible in the photographic and non-photographic daily and weekly papers   ..."

A H Wall asked:  "But is there no hope for portraiture in the future?"  -  then suggested that the hope would come through the public recognising artistic excellence.

He said that photographers had a place to play in educating the public, just as the public's taste in landscape photography had changed.  He explained:

Landscape Photography

The Public's Views Changes

"When I denounced the then excessively popular white skies I remember how an eminent photographer rose to say that unfortunately, although my ideas were good they were not practicable, for neither the public nor dealers in photographic  landscapes would purchase them if the skies were not 'nice and clean and white'

But white skies  are now quite exceptional things, and the public must have been taught to appreciate natural skies too, for they purchase photographic landscapes more largely now than then."

A H Wall concluded by recommending that photographers should pursue excellence in art for its own sake:

"Art lovingly produced is lovingly received"

[British Journal of Photography 4 August 1865, pp.402-403]



Alfred H Wall

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