From Pictorial Artistry: The Dramatization of the Beautiful in Photography
"The bright flowers and foliage of Summer are gone. Dry leaves and broken twigs rustle and crackle underfoot… the crisp air has become coolly remindful of the imminence of Winter… and sprigs of colorful Bittersweet again adorn the vases on my mantelpiece.
For it is at this time in our seasonal cycle that the hardy crimson-berried shrub defiantly colors the faded countrysides, and we gratefully gather its vivid cheeriness to grace our homes with its lasting hues through the long Winter months. It is this feeling of homely delicacy that I wished to capture in the subject.
A simple arrangement in steelyard balance. The vase positioned at the extreme right permits the Bittersweet to extend far to the left without distortion or side-heaviness. The second sprig, resting carelessly below provides whatever additional support may be needed. The simple, restrained tone and contour of the vase prevent this large mass from otherwise dominating the composition and subordinating the intended center of interest, which of course is the Bittersweet. The high key of the rendering with subtle play of light and tone, and the diffused light accent at the center of the composition, give the ethereal delicacy and charm I desired.
Technical Problems:
High key and finely balanced tone values in a limited range is an achievement in photography that demands complete mastery, (barring accidents) of the technique of pictorial control all the way from the selection of suitable subject matter to the final negative and print manipulation. The particular problem at this time was to successfully introduce strength in high key without falling into that ever yawning pitfall of ruinous contrast. The tone in the center was introduced by flashing and printing-in during enlarging.
Camera: Jewel A 9x12cm
Lens: Zeiss Tessar
Stop: f.16
Film: Agfa Superpan
Exposure: 8 seconds (Mazda Light)
Print: 14x17 Tuma Gas, toned"
by Adolf Fassbender, 1937
Currently not on view
date made
before 1937
Fassbender, Adolf
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
image: 8 in x 10 1/2 in; 20.32 cm x 26.67 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Adolf Fassbender, Pictorial Artistry
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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