The Essence of Photography
Author: Bruce Barnbaum
Bruce Barnbaum has created an odd book for a mathematician and computer programmer. It has a rambling, unstructured approach to presenting his views on seeing and creativity. It is really more autobiographical with stories about how his, his students’ and his mentors’ creativity is expressed mixed with his philosophy of photography. Of course, it is the story of a well know and successful photographer, teacher and writer so there are pearls scattered through the text to be found by the diligent reader.
The introduction presents eight statements about what the book is and isn’t that makes it clear that the text will be about exploration and introspection rather than technical instruction. This is followed by eight chapters that expand on these ideas. It would be an over simplification to say it boils down to understanding yourself and what subjects you are passionate about photographing, but that seems to be at the core of the book.
I particularly like the chapter on attending a workshop. The author has given many of them and offers good advice on how to get the most out of attending them. The workshop industry is big business and we should get the most for the money we pay to attend.
Most readers will probably be using digital rather than film techniques. They may sense some bias toward film in the author. That is natural, I think, for someone using film for 45 years. I have heard film photographers says and Barnbaum writes that digital photographers sometimes rush through the capture, planning to fix it in Photoshop, without contemplating the final result. I suspect there were film photographers that did essentially the same thing, creating poor images of Yosemite while Ansel was creating his masterpieces. They just didn’t have Facebook to share them with the world. More than the medium, I think it is that most of us don’t have the discipline to use everything we know every time we capture an images so few of us reach master status.
If you are looking for a structured approach to the subjects of seeing and creativity, I would recommend one of Barnbaum’s other books, The Art of Photography. This one may interest you if you like reading anecdotes that show how a master thinks.