I just finished a great book on photography. It had no pictures. It didn’t have a whole lot of instruction or technology either. I will be the first to admit that I had my doubts about it when I picked it up, but I thought I’d give it a try. I should have known better, since the publisher also produced one of my favorite photography books. After reading it, I had a new perspective on photography and I also realized it was the kind of book I wish I had written. What book was it? Read on!
The book is “Single Exposures” by Brooks Jensen (who is the man behind the Lens Work photography magazine/web site.) The book is subtitled “Random Observations on Photography, Art & Creativity.”
It is 182 pages and in that he covers 155 topics in short, one page essays/observations. At the start of the book he talks about his process of “writing” the pieces. The tone of the pieces was purely conversational since they were the byproduct of his audio podcasts, which were then transcribed and slightly polished for reading. Read more at: http://www.lenswork.com/se.htm To hear some of the actual audio podcasts, go to: http://daily.lenswork.com/
Here are the titles of a few of my favorite pieces:
How Protozoans Led Me To Ansel Adams
Who Soups The Prints
Taking Versus Making
Photography Is Not About Light
Being Introduced As A Photographer
Just from the titles alone you know the author, Brooks Jensen, has a strong point of view. You also, want to read what he wrote to understand the questions raised by many of those same titles. As blogger, I too struggle with titling my entries so I find his titling especially creative.
One thing I took away was how jealous I was that Jensen was lucky or debatebly even spoiled. I am not sure I could do it, but simply talking and then having my jabbering transcribed? That sounds like a great way to write/blog. I am sure that it was in fact harder than it sounds. Like anything else, my guess is that all the hard work came in preparing the talking points or even the actual script for the daily audio podcasts. The talking was probably easy by comparison.
The other book that came from the same press is “On Being a Photographer” by David Hurn/Magnum in conversation with Bill Jay. You can read more at http://www.lenswork.com/obp.htm. I have briefly blogged about that book in the past. http://thewellspoint.com/2008/09/29/my-favorite-photography-book/ You can see a sample of the book at http://www.lenswork.com/obpexc.htm The book was first published in 1996 so it predates digital imaging and the current explosion in fine-art photography.
Some of the book is Bill Jay’s great writing on life, on Hurn and on our beloved medium of photography. Much of the book is the transcription of a series of dialogs between a great photographer and someone who is a skilled writer/thinker drawing out the ideas from the great photographer.
Both books echo what I write about in my blogs and I teach in my classes. Any serious reader of both books is reminded that great photography is a thought-filled process. Yes, the tools are important! The mastery of those tools is more important than the brand of the tools themselves. In the end, the best photographers know their tools, embrace their mastery of those and understand their own thinking. Then they make photographs, using their minds to organize the image, their mastery of their tolls to execute the image and the tools themselves to merely hold the results.