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Megan, Karl Struss Pictorial Lens

Jim Galli

Member

megan

My youngest. When I saw the light on her, I ran for the 5X7 Speed Graphic. The Karl Struss Pictorial is a simple meniscus behind an aperture.
 

Ken Tanaka

pro member
So is this a soft-focus lens or an attachment that enables other lenses to soft-focus, Jim? Was this a relatively common lens/gadget for large format portrait photographers to use?
 

Jim Galli

Member
Hi Ken. The Karl Struss Pictorial lens was a dedicated soft focus lens made a few years either side of 1917 or so. They are extremely rare and I consider myself very lucky to have it. Karl Struss was a key player in the photo secessionist movement but later he ended up making movies in Hollywood.
 

Ken Tanaka

pro member
Very interesting. I would imagine that Struss was among Alfred Steiglitz's followers? That's quite a swing...pictorialism to motion pictures. Art's great, but a guy's gotta eat, eh?

Pictorialism is exactly where I'd peg that lens. It looks like it struggles with strong highlights but handles midtones and maintains contrasts nicely. Accurate assessment?
 

Jim Galli

Member
Very interesting. I would imagine that Struss was among Alfred Steiglitz's followers? That's quite a swing...pictorialism to motion pictures. Art's great, but a guy's gotta eat, eh?

Pictorialism is exactly where I'd peg that lens. It looks like it struggles with strong highlights but handles midtones and maintains contrasts nicely. Accurate assessment?
Yes, Steiglitz and Struss were contemporaries and friends but Struss was younger. I think the story between the lines is that Struss never really fit in the artistic establishment because he was extremely right wing in his politics. His art may have been as good or better than the rest but he didn't fit in the 'crowd' so to speak. I think that always plagued him some in Hollywood too.

The lens by design overstated the highlights. It gets it's softness from coma and the 'buzz' is most pronounced in the extreme highlights. It's also directional from axis. Plus my own style aggravates (or enhances?) the lens design. I love the feeling of filling the picture with light even if it costs me some so called "blown out highlights".
 
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