The Art of Photography for the Thinking Man


The Art of Photography for the Thinking Man

As I was looking at the photo I took (in Bodie, California) where a cloud appears to be emerging from a chimney, I thought of this rather old (1981) Time-life book that I have read recently, called 'The Art of Photography'. Its possibly one of the most interesting books I have read on photography. It talks of photography as an art, a very different take on the entire subject.

The difference is rather obvious. This book talks of shape, form, texture, pattern, color ..., while most other books on photography talk of aperture, focal length, shutter speed, ISO, megapixels, photoshop.

The Art of Photography talks about how every successful photograph should have a theme, strong visual elements and design (composition). The authors give many examples of how the same object/idea (say, a mannequin, a city, and love) can inspire very different interpretations by different photographers. Design itself is composed of many different facets, such as: the dominant feature in the photograph, balance, proportion, rhythm and perspective. Each one can bring a completely different way of looking into the same subject.

There's a long chapter on the meaning of time in photography. In particular:

  • suspended animation : aka still life (or posed portraits),
  • decisive moment : a perfect moment in time,
  • sidelong glimpse : just any random moment in time.

All these schools of photography have their champions, and its difficult to say one is better than the other. I guess one needs to go back to the old threesome: theme, visuals, composition; if there is a striking combination of the three, then its a great photo; else its just a capture of a moment in time. This distinction is even more important to make these days, when ubiquitousness of smart phones have cerated trillions of photographs that are not much more than capture of a moment in time.

All in all, the book provides a completely different viewpoint. A thinking man's photography book.



Mahesh said…
Totally. It is an art, not a science.
Amit Basu said…
Mahesh, You wouldn't know that if you hang around with photographers with long lenses

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