Lens Versus Pencil: A Post from a Penn Press Intern

Intern Taylor Wemmer sheds light on the value of illustration in the following article.

Film and Lens or Paper and Pencil?

If someone asked me whether I would prefer a book full of black and white illustrations or a book full of color photographs, I would answer, “the one with color photographs, please.” Aren’t photographs the closest we can come to experiencing the true form of an object? Don’t photographs provide more details than a mere illustration? Not necessarily. For those who study plants, a black-and-white illustration can hold far greater value than a photograph. The usefulness of such illustrations makes them a vital component in the second edition of Dr. Ann Rhoads and Dr. Timothy Block’s The Plants of Pennsylvania, a practical guide for plant enthusiasts with any level of experience.

Rhoads explains that "drawings, prepared by a skilled botanical illustrator, can depict important details that are necessary for accurate identification better than photographs.”

Care to test this out for yourself? Try to find the poison ivy in the photo below (from Wikipedia).


PoisonivyfinalNow click on this poison ivy drawing by The Plants of Pennsylvania illustrator Anna Anisko–one of the hundreds of meticulous illustrations she drew from specimens collected by The Morris Arboretum–then, go back to the photograph and see if you can find the plant.

After studying the illustration, I noticed that the poison-ivy leaf
comes to a sharper point and its edges have a “toothed” quality. It now
becomes much less difficult to distinguish the difference between the
poison-ivy on the right and Box Elder (often mistaken for poison-ivy ) on
the left of the photograph. That’s one lesson
learned during my internship that may prove very useful in the future.

Taylor Wemmer is a classical studies major at the University of Pennsylvania.