Helping Hands


From Pictorial Artistry: The Dramatization of the Beautiful in Photography

"Boys and boats are always ideal picture material. Take these young mariners, for example. I had been setting up my camera quite a distance away in preparation for taking a general view of the interesting fishing village locale, when my attention was attracted by the hustle and bustle of the boys in the boats. Why, thought I, here might very well be a group of young adventurers in possession of an ancient weather-stained map of buried treasure busily preparing to set forth in quest of fame and fortune… or, an intrepid band of explorers bound for the arctic wastes! Yes, indeed… but I must be quick or they will be gone and I will not have my picture!

Hastily bundling my equipment together… visualizing the composition, calculating the exposure, setting lens stop, shutter, focus and filter on the run, I arrived at my predetermined point of view and made the exposure before the boys became aware of my presence. Breathless, but happy and confident that I had succeeded in getting the picture I wanted, I realized more than ever that chance good luck with snapshots is satisfying only to the beginner. The serious pictorialist, even when working under conditions requiring quick thinking and action, finds his reward for painstaking effort in the consistent superior qualities of his results.


Human interest and unposed spontaneity of action in the figures make a pleasant contrast to the highly pictorial nature of the setting. The pier-line to the left retains and defines the canal while the zig-zag character of the roof lines help to make that portion of the sky area interesting. The horizontal position of the boat and the illuminated figure of the little boy seated in it attracts the eye to this point in the composition, from which the eye can then sweep along the directional lines of the oar and the converging sides of the boat to where the other boys… the helping hands… are preparing for departure.

Technical Problems:

Late afternoon, filter and lens stop considerations forced me to use the longest possible exposure. Therefore, I had to watch and be ready for the moment when there was a minimum of motion in the figures. The horizontal mass of clouds was later introduced to relieve the otherwise uninteresting void of sky over the flat portion of the horizon at the upper left.


Camera: 2 ¼ x 3 ¼ Makina

Lens: Plaubel Anticomar

Stop: f.6.3

Film: Agfa Super Plenachrome

Filter: Medium Yellow

Exposure: 1/25 in hand

Print: 14x17 Tuma Gas, direct"

by Adolf Fassbender, 1937

Date Made: before 1937

Maker: Fassbender, Adolf

Location: Currently not on view

See more items in: Work and Industry: Photographic History, Adolf Fassbender, Pictorial Artistry, Photography


Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: PG.004116.27Catalog Number: 4116.27Accession Number: 146001

Object Name: photographphotogravure

Physical Description: paper (overall material)Measurements: image: 7 7/8 in x 10 1/2 in; 20.0025 cm x 26.67 cm


Record Id: nmah_1807066

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