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Picturing the family
Picturing the family

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4.9.3 Limited characterisation

The other function of lighting was, inevitably, to assist characterization. Since Robinson advised portrait photographers to show sitters as moderately calm ladies and gentlemen, the lighting in commercial work is usually quiet and uniform, without dramatic contrasts of light and shade. This was intended to suggest tranquillity, harmony and self-control, in keeping with the limited stereotypical characterization discussed previously.

The use of lighting to convey dramatic characterization is more evident in Victorian art photography. Certain qualities were associated with particular effects.

Gladness abounds in the brilliancy of sunshine; placidity and peace speak most eloquently in the harmonious blending of subdued tones; and a general gloom, with intense black shadows, has a gaudy, powerful voice when associated with the rugged and the desolate.

(Wall, 1859, pp. 193–5)