As I was going to be immobile for a while after my surgery, I asked on the Flickr/OCA forum what I should be doing as I was going to be stuck somewhat like a Hitchcock character in “Rear Window”. It was suggested that I watch “The genius of Photography” and read some suggested titles.
Luckily I had been given a copy of the DVD “The Genius of Photography” just a few days before my operation and so far I have watched the first episode fully and part of the second episode.
I have had further success with the books.
Sontag on Photography – Susan Sontag
Ways of Seeing – John Berger
Photo Icons Volume 1 – Taschen
Edward Weston – Taschen
Photography a very short introduction – Steve Edwards
Sontag on Photography is a collection of essays and ideas from Susan Sontag regarding photographic theory, photographers themselves and the photographic way of seeing. Sontag puts for a number of good ideas and theories within the essays. I found them a little unstructured and at times I found that they almost contradicted themselves from chapter to chapter. However the book was very informative and it introduced come new concepts and language of art that I had not understood up until that point. One of the essays considers the work of Edward S Curtis who created a collection of photographs as a record for society on the passing of the ways of life of the Native American, showing that photography was acting both as a method of recording, a statement on the passing of a way of life, a collection of photographs and an artistic statement.
One of the collections of essays I did really enjoy was on the way of seeing and the artists/photographers eye, these essays contain a lot of philosophy and ideas that I now start to think of when I am even considering the basic ideas of composition.
I had started reading “Ways of seeing” in parallel with Sontag on Photography and found that both authors carry the same message regarding the ability to see and think as an artist and as a photographer and that photography should be treated as an art in its own right. I did find that “Ways of seeing” was easier to read as it combined full text chapters with chapters of nothing but photographs and a combination of both. The simple fact that it allows the reader space and time to examine their own concepts and thoughts and to show that art is open to everyone made it a good book that I could dip in and out of when I was able.
Photo Icons Volume 1 contains a small number of iconic photographs which have been picked for their historical and artistic influence in photography. At first flicking through the book I was unaware of the differing styles that the book would show and I was surprised to see that the collection of photographs were each documented fully covering both the photographer, their artistic and historical place and then examining the photograph in question. I especially liked the little side history giving the full life of the photographer and what their main influences were. These small hard back books were surprisingly cheap and very interesting. From looking at these books I bought books on Edward Weston, Edward S Curtis, Karl Blossfedt, Man Ray and Henri Cartier Bresson.
I am particularly fond of the still life work of Edward Weston, his simple monochromatic images of peppers have a striking use of dark and light which reminds me of the paintings of Diego Rivera as they are stunning in their simplicity. His ability to enhance his subject through the use of light is fascinating and his images of shells are almost impossible to describe for their complexity, I feel that his images almost shine with an inner light. The book has a selection of his images and a short life history on Weston himself.
I read “Photography a very short introduction” as it was required reading for a day course in photography that I took a Edinburgh University just last week. The book quickly covers photographic history and then goes on into photographic theory and concepts; including compositional structure and the differing types of photography concentrating mainly on the difference between art photography and documentary photography. I found that the book was a small handy size and that I could stick it in a jacket pocket and read it when I had the time as the chapters were short and simple. The chapter on perspective within composition was very clear and it clearly defined the differing styles of perspective composition which until now I had never considered.