Staged photography — James Elliott (1)


L'article qui suit est une critique, parue en décembre 1858 dans le journal The Photographic News, de quelques compositions photographiques récemment publiées. L'article, très étrangement, paraît signé du photographe James Elliott, qui est pourtant l'auteur des images même dont il réprouve parfois l'esthétique.


S'agirait-il d'une simple erreur typographique, les éditeurs ayant oublié d'intégrer le nom du photographe au titre de l'article ? Ou bien James Elliott a-t-il déjà pris assez de distance avec son propre travail pour en dénoncer les failles et les insuffisances ?



ElliottBallInSquale"A Ball in Squale" ("in squeal" ?), par James Elliott, vers 1858 (collection J. Calvelo)


(James Elliott, né à Londres en 1832 et mort à Kensington en 1900, est l'un des  grands précurseurs de la mise en scène photographique. Il est l'auteur de dizaines de vues composées pour le stéréoscope entre 1854 et 1860 environ, qui se sont probablement vendues à des milliers d'exemplaires, et dont il reste encore d'excellents et nombreux spécimens, en Grande-Bretagne comme sur le continent. James Elliott semble avoir réalisé ses prises de vue très élaborées dans un grand atelier au 9 Albany Courtyard, Cité de Westminster, à Londres (informations de dont les dimensions lui permettaient de reconstituer des scènes qui exigeaient parfois la présence de nombreux figurants. La qualité plastique de ses "tableaux vivants", son sens de la composition et la finesse de certains éclairages trahissent un "œil de peintre" – sa profession véritable, sans doute, comme cela fut le cas pour tant de photographes "primitifs".)



Stereographic Illustrations of Compositive Photography. By J. Elliott.

(in The Photographic News, a weekly record of the progress of photography, edited by William Crookes F.C.S., December 24,
1858, pp. 184-185.)

We have, on several occasions recently, animadverted upon a department of compositive photography, which we thought called for a remonstrance on our part. Since then we have pushed our inquiries further on the subject, and have made it a special point to watch the progress or retrogression which might be perceptible. We have before us an almost complete history of the art in a series of the chief stereoscopic slides which have been published up to the present time. Amongst them we have, what we believe to be, the first of the kind ever issued, and this decidedly is of the class spoken of in our twelfth number as being sentimental, &c. Then follows the series of « My First », « One too Many », « Five weeks after Marriage », « Broken Vows », &c. &c…



ElliottJoanArcPrisoner"Joan of Arc taken Prisoner", par James Elliott, vers 1858 (collection J. Calvelo)



ElliottMoneyLender"The Money Lender", par James Elliott, vers 1858 (collection J. Calvelo)


These are too well known to need more than the mention of their titles, and our opinion of them has long since been recorded in these pages. It is, however, but fair to mention, that those just enumerated are among the very first attempts in this branch, and as such, although they bear sufficient evidence of a want of thorough artistic skill, there is, at the same time, no little credit due to the ingenuity cf the composer; this, in fact, we have ever been ready to acknowledge in all our notices...


ElliottFineFruitSir"Fine Fruit, Sir ?", par James Elliott, vers 1858 (collection J. Calvelo)



ElliottNiceDuckSir"Nice Duck, Sir ?", par James Elliott, vers 1858 (collection J. Calvelo)


Taking, then, the new subjects which have been more recently published, we can still see traces of the imperfections which are so evident in the earlier productions; while, at the same time, there is a great advance in ingenuity, and a decided improvement in the powers of arrangement. For instance, a new slide of a wedding is much more naturally and yet elaborately grouped; and, instead of a Protestant clergyman, we have a Roman Catholic priest, and, as a matter of course, the elaborate furniture of a Roman Catholic altar, which gives greater facilities to the compositive talent of the arranger. Still it is but a transposition of the original idea; and a wedding is a wedding, whether the ceremony be performed by Catholic priest or Protestant clergyman...


ElliottInstituteursTitre inconnu (Une salle de classe), par James Elliott, vers 1858 (collection J. Calvelo)



ElliottEnfantsTitre inconnu (Deux enfants), par James Elliott, vers 1858 (collection J. Calvelo)



ElliottNourrissonUn nourrisson prénommé "Frank", par James Elliott, vers 1858 (collection J. Calvelo)



ElliottDansLeFoinTitre inconnu (Cache-cache dans les foins), par James Elliott, vers 1858 (collection J. Calvelo)



wDinerTitre inconnu (Un dîner), par James Elliott, vers 1858 (collection J. Calvelo)



« The Orphan's Dream » is well grouped, and the representation of the floating dream is most ingenious; but yet there is scarcely that amount of poetic feeling in the rendering which we should like to see. It is too ambitious an effort, and the subject is one which can scarcely be touched by photography. « Homeless and Friendless », a slide not yet published, is well worked out as far as the placing of the figure goes, but the falling snow has a painful, dazzling effect, and the fallen snow is decidedly woolly. « The Fairy » is, perhaps, a still more ambitious effort than any of the preceding. It is the figure of a female floating in mid air, and behind whom is a background of stars. The pose of the figure is easy and graceful, but the astronomical background is rather out of place. We have puzzled out brains to find out in what exact constellation the brilliant group of stars which adorn this picture is to be found. They have evidently been stuck on by a non-astronomical photographer, while, unfortunately, the sky has a series of wrinkles, more suggestive of a stretched sheet than of the fair canopy overhead. These last mentioned are, in our opinion, the least successful of the new series; but while we say this, we wrould acknowledge that there is a decided improvement upon the earlier and more crude attempts in this department, and in them there is hope for still greater success...


ElliottOrphansDream"The Orphan's Dream", par James Elliott, vers 1858 (collection J. Calvelo)


Suite de l'article du Photographic News...


Vues " composées " - James Elliott (2) - Photographie 3D " primitive "

" The Reception and Profession of a Sister of Mercy ", illustrated in two slides, are interesting, on account of the announcement that they " have been prepared with every regard to correctness of detail " - the artist acknowledging his thanks to those who assisted him in the composition, including " a venerable ecclesiastic, and an archbishop's lay secretary ".