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From Pictorial Artistry: The Dramatization of the Beautiful in Photography
"I was at the foot of the St. Gothard in Switzerland, in the little village of Hospenthal. Cowbells had awakened me at five-thirty A.M. The dawn was gray and dim, with the rain coming steadily down. At the sound of the bells only one thought came to mind. I simply must get a cow picture. So I rushed to the window, grabbing my camera on the way. But I was too late… not a cow in sight. My disappointment only made me more eager to take a cow picture at this time. Since optimism has always been one of my greatest faults, I was still hopeful that some more cows would obligingly pass by my window. I put the camera in focus and rested it on the window ledge with a cloth covering the camera safely from moisture. There now, I thought to myself, I am ready for any picture possibility within range of my window. I hope it will be cows.
With this wish, I returned to my bed to await the tinkle of the cowbells. But instead at every sound outside my window, up I would jump and rush to look. An hour of this seemingly mad performance and I was through with bed, choosing instead to doze by the window. During the period of this self-imposed vigil, I managed to get a number of interesting pictures of passersby. The picture reproduced here is one of the most interesting. But woe for my optimism and fortitude. There is not a cow picture in the lot!
Steelyard with S-curve. An ideal study for the student of dynamic symmetry. Although the two figures moving in opposite directions seem to provide a double motive, they are held together so forcefully by the leading lines of the road and the enclosing perspective of the buildings that unity and harmony remain.
Technical Problems:
The poor light required that I use an exposure of 1/10 of a second. I had to watch the feet of the woman as she walked so that my exposure would be accurately timed to catch the least possible movement. In the original scene a large and swift-flowing waterfall was at the left. Because this tended to distract attention and confuse the composition, it was etched and retouched out of the negative. The curved path, the stones and steps were all too dark and had to be carefully revalued to give the figure of the woman necessary emphasis. Bright patches in unimportant areas were subdued by reduction.
Camera: 2 ½ x 3 ¼ Makina
Lens: Plaubel Anticomar
Stop: f.6.3
Exposure: 1/10 from window sill
Film: Agfa Super Plenachrome
Print: 14x17 Defender Velour Black"
by Adolf Fassbender, 1937
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
before 1937
Fassbender, Adolf
place made
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
image: 11 in x 8 1/8 in; 27.94 cm x 20.6375 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Work and Industry: Photographic History
Adolf Fassbender, Pictorial Artistry
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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