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Albert S. Southworth, "The Use of the Camera"
Philadelphia Photographer, September 1873

Remember that expression is everything in a photograph. All else—the hair, jewelry, lace-work, drapery of dress, and attitude—are only aids to expression. It must at least be comfortable, and ought to be amiable. It ought also to be sensible, spirited, and dignified, and usually with care and patience may be so. A little practice, with a friend to prompt, before a mirror, will save time, and very likely be the means of much increasing the satisfaction of those for whom the likeness is made.…

Now I have placed my camera out here. I will say to him, Mr. President, I have taught you this before, but I will have to say it again. Before I begin to raise my camera, I have said to my sitter, now there are some things I would like to have you not think of. I cannot help it when they are sitting for a picture, and after I think I am ready for it, I will direct them as to the line of vision. You will please to look at that point if you want the picture to be looking at you, and I must make it so that it falls directly on that line on the edge of the tube or over it, and I want you to look as though you were looking ten miles out at sea. You can open and shut the eyes with the most perfect freedom. You must give a light in which they will not blink. I make it as comfortable as I can, and pay attention to that point while I am taking the picture. The eye must be used at its longest range. You must tell them to look just as far as they can, and let them practice on that look, and when they look up they will place the eyes in just the same position as if looking from the top of the Statehouse down Boston harbor.…

You want to make the picture so that every time that you take it up you will see new beauties in it, and so you will love to turn over an album of such pictures, every single day to examine the effect of fine photographing, and I tell you it is done a great many times, by a great many artists constantly, and by some constantly, but gentlemen it is not done by true artists at all. Gentlemen, you will excuse me, I am only talking for the very highest reach of our art, but you will tell me that I have aimed a little above it. I did not, but never mind the aim; you must aim high and you will not be down there long, you will be coming up, and if you never get to the top, you will have a feeling that you are making the very best effort, and perhaps, if you live long enough, you will reach it. I believe that is all.


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