Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer
Author: Harold Davis
I think of a photographer’s development as a progression on three levels, technical, compositional, and visual. When you put them all together, you come up with a style. There are many books on the technical aspects of photography and quite a few on composition and design but not very many on the creative aspects of vision. I was excited to see one written by Harold Davis. His published images and books cover as broad a spectrum of photographic genres as anyone I know, and I thought his book may help me understand his processes better.
This is really two books in one. There first part is textual and describes some of his approach and the struggles his students have had with their images. He strives to have his images represent a poem that can stand alone as a work of art. The chapters discuss the ways he and his students have challenged themselves to create the poems and overcome the resistance and obstructions that artists face. I find it difficult to reduce his approach to a short statement for a review. It is a mixtures of self-assessment, experimentation, and challenges that stretch the photographer. He acknowledges the importance of technical competence but as a way to use it to create his vision. The reading begins to feel Zen, which is complemented by the images he uses to illustrate the text. Many of them do succeed in causing an emotional response in me.
The second part is a tear-out workbook for the reader to use with 46 pages of exercises the photographer may use to enhance creativity. The forms lead the user through self-evaluation, technical experimentation, exploration of passion, right up to the photographer’s bucket list. These are modeled on business self-help books and performance improvement workflows. In fact the references for further reading included in the book list both Wabi-sabi and business books. This makes for an interesting combination of free flowing thought and formal worksheets.
This book differs from the usual business book by not telling us where the exercises came from or how they have been tested. In business books they are presented as derived from a study of successful companies with examples of how other have used them to improve. These do not have supporting documentation. It seems the reader is on his/her own to work through drills. I think readers would benefit by more examples of how others have used the system and/or an online support system of others going through the process (like Strobist) where people can encourage each other. Few will have the discipline to get through the work alone. Maybe that is the point, not everyone will combine free flowing and formal to reach the higher plains, but we can try.