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If this photo had been exhibited around 1870, it would have added more substance to the new concern at the time that the camera would replace the artist. Because this photo is really a painting. I've explained all this to Monitor photographer Neal Menschel, who took it one day in Prague - and he's beginning to come around to this explanation.

Take the color harmony. The reds, browns, and yellows meld into a unity that glows richly. The touch of green and the black shadows only highlight the dominant warmth of this work. The playful distortions dramatize the various geometries of windows. And light is captured just the way those innovative French artists of the mid-to-late 19th century said it should be.

Images of houses are dumped casually into a canal to stand on their rooftops, one little patch of sky daubed on the lower right. A bridge is outlined in black, with figures sketched on it as they cross the canal.

Now the viewer needs to perform a slight service. He or she can turn the Home Forum Page upside down. There, now it is a painting, and we can more readily imagine that the water and lens have not really turned the view top-side under.

Either way, the picture still captures the mood the photographer wanted to communicate. There is still the attention to color, texture, and movement. The only real difference is that now the moment has been translated into something more subjective than what the photographer may have originally seen. And that again supports the idea of the scene being a painting.

So go ahead, give yourself the freedom to admire Menschel's work upside down. The more you look, the more you'll be drawn into the appealing human scale of the buildings. You'll find yourself almost ready to step into this authentic European dimension.

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