Monday, 4 October 2010

Photography and the art of seeing

Freeman Patterson's book bills itself as a workshop and like any workshop it has exercises that you can follow to reinforce the lessons. The book is built around three principles of observation, imagination and expression and offers techniques and insight for developing these areas.

The section on observation concentrates on overcoming barriers to seeing and the exercises are designed to help you do that. Its about breaking rules, thinking laterally, studying the familiar and clearing your mind to make room for observation.

The section on imagination is fairly short and in many ways the barriers to imagination are the same as the barriers to observation. Imagination, abstraction and pre-visualisation are discussed with good examples and exercises.

The section on expression is about conveying mood or feeling in your photographs. The photos that Freeman uses to illustrate expression are mostly landscapes that have been designed to express a feeling such as joy or a concept such as dreaming.

A large part of the section on expression is a discussion of the unique properties of cameras. Its actually very low on technical detail and I guess you might see that as a good thing or a bad thing depending on your level of technical ability.

The remainder of the book is about visual design and how this might relate to expression and emotion. The sort of things discussed are the use of colour, line and tone. Freeman has a very different approach to a more technical work like The Photographer's Eye or David Prakel's Composition. This book has a more personal and emotional style to it.

The book throughout is illustrated with Freeman's photos. For the most part they are landscapes often very delicate in tone and composed to the point of abstraction. His other photos are a little less inspirational. I also felt that the images in the book were let down by the printing. They seemed over-sharpened lacking in detail and there was some banding on some of the images. I would have liked to have seen more variety.

For me personally I didn't feel that I got as much out of it as I could have because I didn't do the exercises some of the lessons have stuck in my addled mind but its a book that for me requires re-reading.

Having said that, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to someone who was doing a 365 project because it would be easy to incorporate the exercises into your daily routine. If you are the kind of person who would work through exercises I think you could get a lot of value out of it.

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