The Crooked Mile

From Pictorial Artistry: The Dramatization of the Beautiful in Photography
"There was a crooked man
Who went a crooked mile
He found a crooked sixpence
Against a crooked stile…
So reads the old English rhyme. Near Halifax in Nova Scotia I was reminded of it. For there, half hidden away in the rocky uneven shoreline of a quaint little fisher-village (Peggy’s Cove) I found a crooked mile!
Intent on immortalizing the Crooked Mile in a picture as it has been in nursery room verse these many years, I sought out a crooked man, paid him the equivalent of a crooked sixpence for his services, and then carefully posed him in legendary fashion. But alas for my picture story telling. In the dark room with my negative before me, my sense of compositional rightness got the better of me. By careful retouching, I removed the image of the crooked man because his presence detracted attention from the logical center of interest, which inspection of the finished print reveals as being the little white house at the top of the hill where the crooked mile fades over the horizon.
The graceful S-curve of the road entering the picture at the lower right leads all the way through the picture area until it fades out where the sky line begins. The arresting motif at this point predominates because of the directional force of the S-curve movement.
Technical Problems:
More than just the man was removed by retouching to improve the composition. A few stray sheep in the roadway were also sacrificed. Rocks that were too bright, due to the extreme sensitivity of Panchromatic film to yellow when a filter is used, had to be reduced and chalked in the final print-making. The roadway was brightened in keeping with its importance in the composition, and the house at the upper left was toned down. The water at the right was too black because of the effect of the filter, and had to be treated to show detail and reflections of its surface.
Camera: 9x12 Linhof
Lens: Zeiss Tessar
Stop: f.16
Film: Agfa Superpan
Exposure: 1/5 second, on tripod
Print: 14x17 on Tuma Gas"
by Adolf Fassbender, 1937
Currently not on view
date made
before 1937
Fassbender, Adolf
place made
Canada: Nova Scotia
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
image: 11 in x 8 1/2 in; 27.94 cm x 21.59 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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