Emmanuel Bigler is a professor (now
retired) in optics and microtechnology at ENSMM, Besançon, France, an
engineering college (École Nationale Supérieure d'Ingénieurs) in
mechanical engineering and microtechnology.
his Ph.D. degree from Institut d'Optique, Orsay (France).
uses an Arca-Swiss 6X9 FC view camera.
et Frances Schultz
"Interior Shots, Pro-Lighting series,''
by Roger Hicks & Frances Schultz, ISBN 0-82306-465-4,
French edition translated by René Bouillot, ISBN 2-86258-186-2, 160pp,
éditions VM, 1996
par Emmanuel Bigler
When comes the time of choosing a book on photographic techniques in a
bookstore, it is not uncommon to browse through the contents first
before eventually checking who is the author on the cover page. For
artist's books featuring their photographic work, on the contrary, the
first thing is usually to look for the author before checking if the
contents suits you.
A famous exception to this common rule might be Ansel Adams series on
black and white photographic techniques, where the great artist is also
a fascinating professor  explaining
both basic and advanced photography illustrated with his most famous
Needless to say that after purchasing this book on Interior Shots
for its technical contents, it is another good surprise to discover the
names of two excellent British and American authors, and (for the French
version) translated into French by a one of he most respected French
authors on photographic techniques.
The rules of the games in the 'Pro-Lighting' series is that the authors,
namely R. Hicks et F. Schultz for this volume, call for help a panel of
skilled professional photographers in order to share some of their best
``professional quality'' images with the readers, explained by a precise
description of the methods and equipment in use.
The book shows many different examples to suit most personal preferences
from the pure geometry of the ceiling in a mosque to the nave of a
cathedral, from the most contemporary style of office furniture to the
most classical and so British interior, where on the wall the
portrait of the XV-st Earl of Westminston (or his cousin) is gently
mocking at the photographer.
The reader should not expect to find a list of
tricks used by craftsmen
like in a do-it-yourself home repair or gardening magazine; amateurs
sometimes dream that the mere knowledge of such tricks will transform
them into skilled professionals: certainly not, but, yes for sure, fine craftsmanship this is actually the spirit of the book as far as
professional lighting is concerned. The book is intended more as a
support to the training of a young professional photographer, and such a
student may have reasons to be impressed by the technical mastery as
exposed in the book: he will have a lot to do before reaching the same
An amateur reading the book should not be deterred from taking his own
photographs of interiors, even if it is unlikely that he could ever be
able to put together all the equipment listed in the explanatory pages.
After all, amateurs of classical music performing at home on a small
piano should not stop from listening to the best records by best piano
players: on the contrary, this will help them to practise scales and
eventually to play their favourite pieces. In a sense, this is how the
book by Roger Hicks and Frances Schultz might be considered: an essay in
musicology helping you to better understand music masterpieces, or an
educational recording explaining in detail the difficult parts of a
given piece and how they were ``solved'' by a famous artist. Here in
photography, for our pleasure, we are shown a selection of photographic
of classical subjects.
However, even if the amateur has reasons to be intimidated by all this
lighting maestria, there are a few simple techniques to be
immediately applied without a lot of equipment. For example, about the
difficult point of balancing light for a picture taken inside a church,
Quitin Wright, one of the contributors of the book, proposes a very
simple (at a first glance) technique to get an even illumination of the
whole nave in a cathedral. The solution consists in using available
light only, coming from highly placed stained-glass windows, and adding
a well-chosen linear graduated neutral filter to balance light between
the ground and the ceiling.
As far as cameras are concerned, the 4''x5'' view camera takes the lion's
share, followed by the medium format (6x6, 6x7). Roger Hicks, almost
asking us to be excused, proposes his personal vision of the classical
interior of an Alabama home taken with a 35 mm camera fitted with an
ultra-wide angle lens (14 mm). Yes, he says, since the final printed
picture was intended for a 4''x6'' format only. Ok, Mr. Hicks, we
understand that you want to stop any starting controversy about that,
but how could the passionate reader of your books admit that you, the
exalter of the 5''x7'' view camera, how could you take a picture
of this interior with a 35 mm camera without movements!!
On the contrary: the demonstration is even more fascinating, the expertise
shown by Roger Hicks in framing and lighting this interior picture makes
very difficult to see at a first glance that it had been shot with a
14mm lens with a 35mm camera. To those who tell you abruptly, in
passionate discussions between amateurs, that ``you should never use a
focal length shorter than a 28mm, otherwise you'd get too much
deformation'' we want to answer: c'mon guys, a bad workman always
blames his tools, just look at the results obtained by Roger Hicks
in Interior Shots with his 14mm !!
The nice workmanship shown in the book is very classical.
Perspective rendition and mastering unwanted effects of converging lines
does not pay any tribute to whatever kind of modern laxness.
Either large format camera movements are used according to the rules of
the art, or when medium format 6x6 cameras without movements are used
hand-held, the verticals are always kept perfectly parallel. In another
book on architecture photography with large format cameras 
written at the end of the 1990's, the Californian photographer Julius
Shulman is worried about the publication of lesser quality architectural
photographs, his feeling is that it is either because art directors are
less stringent or because ``modern'' photographers do not care for the
proper equipment or technique.
Julius Shulman could be reassured reading this book on
at least on this side of the Atlantic, good authors like Roger Hicks and
Frances Schultz --who actually share their time between Europe and the
USA-- with the help of professional photographer friends who contributed
with their best architectural images, are still there to show us that
modern architecture photography is still made in compliance with the
same good rules that made Julius Shulman successful in his career. And
those amateurs or professionals who would take the liberty to publish
images with ``slanted towers'' only because they lack proper skills or
proper equipment, they can make benefit of reading this excellent book.
Unfortunately Interior Shots, Pro-Lighting series may not be
easily available in English as of 2002; and as a French reader we have
to thank the publisher VM and translator René Bouillot to bring this
excellent work to the French speaking community.
People will often try to oppose a famous artist to a professor of
fine arts, who would be doomed to stay forever in the shadow of the
great masters, whose works he has to explain and analyse daily for his
students. Or you'll always hear about a beloved artistic genius,
supposed to be unable to communicate about what he does and for whom any
kind of transmission of his artistic knowledge to students would be
impossible. In classical music, almost all great composers had students,
but few of them became as famous as their master. And all famous
musicians did learn music some day from a professor, but in History,
those professors will be forever hidden behind their student. There
might be an exception in French classical music, where Gabriel Fauré was
both a renowned musician and an excellent professor, he had for some
time Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel in his class. Well actually
Fauré's master classes were probably very special in a sense that the
old master probably never tried to impose anything to students with such
a strong character as Debussy and Ravel. Thirty years later, when
Georges Gershwin, fascinated, met Maurice Ravel and asked him if he
could take lessons with him, Ravel --who could be extremely abrupt--
declined, and after arguing that the young American musician was already
rich and famous (so he did not need anything extra), he mentioned ``no,
you would only compose poor Ravel music...''
Julius Shulman, ``Architecture and its Photography'', 300pp, ISBN
3-8828-7204-0, Taschen America, 1998, (ISBN 3-8228-7334-9, in French,
Taschen, 1998) ; this book unfortunately contains little technical
information about how the photographs were made.
However, the following book by the same author is more oriented toward
large format architectural photographic techniques including case
``Photographing Architecture and Interiors'' by Julius Shulman,
Richard Neutra (Introduction), ISBN: 1890449075, 180 pages, Balcony Pr.
; Reprint edition (May 15, 2000)
Emmanuel Bigler January 20, 2003
Dernière mise à jour : 2003