Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Photographs from the Edge

Title:  Photographs from the Edge: A Master Photographer's Insights on Capturing an Extraordinary World
Author:  Art Wolfe and Rob Sheppard
Publication Information:  Amphoto Books. 2016. 288 pages.
ISBN:  1607747812 / 978-1607747819

Book Source:  I received this book through the Blogging for Books program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "All my life I have let my photos tell stories for me."

Favorite Quote:  "I suspect my style will be forever evolving as long as I am alive."

Books about art, any form of art, are as much about look and feel as the content itself. To some extent, this book looks and feels like a textbook. It is hardbound and about a standard 8 1/2  by 11 size. The photographs are printed in a matte finish as opposed to a glossy finish found in many art and photography books.

The book is centered around photographs of course. Each photograph spans a two page spread in the book. A surprising amount of space is taken up with text on these two pages. The title includes the date, subject, location, equipment used, and camera settings used. The main text portion is a first person narrative of how and why the photograph was capture. A short section, titled "the nature of the photo" gives some brief information about the subject or location. Another short section titled "photo tips" provides just that. Note that the tips are mostly not about camera settings but rather about the location, subject, and composition. For many of the spreads, the actual photograph is only about a half of one page. Some full-page and even two-page photographs are included; however, the focus of the book still seems more so the text. The photographs do not have the impact they might have if printed differently.

Format aside, the content of this book can be looked at in many different ways - a memoir, a travelogue, and a photography manual.

The photographs are organized chronologically, from June November 1983 to January 2015. As such, the photographs and the personal stories of how and why they were shot become a memoir of Art Wolfe's life and his progression as a photographer. With the equipment used, the reader sees a progression in the technology of photography and the migration from film to digital photography. Thus, the organization of the book tells its own story in addition to that of each photograph.

The locations featured in this book cover the globe. "If I feel a location has only barely been covered and there is a lot more left to explore, I'll make a note to head there. But if it looks as though other photographers have captured the best the area has to offer, I'll look elsewhere." As such, the book takes the readers on a tour of places, people, and sights we may never otherwise see. The table of contents is chronological with the title of each image identifying the subject; the book unfortunately does not include a geographic index of the photographs.

This book has much to teach about photography. Each photograph presents the equipment and settings used, some tips, and a personal description of the thought process Art Wolfe goes through to compose and capture the shot. Some shots are a factor of being in the right place at the right time with the right settings. Some are about the staging and planning to have certain people and certain props available in certain places at certain times. The end objective is to get the shot and to create that work of art. Interestingly, the book does not delve into post-processing at all; it seems to be completely about capturing the shot in camera. I don't know if Art Wolfe's philosophy is to minimize processing of shots or if this books simply chooses not to address the part of the process. As someone trying to learn from this book, I wish the book answered the question.

The text content wins out over the presentation of this book; a lot of photographic and cultural information is packed in the book. The format unfortunately prevents the photographs themselves from having the visual impact the should.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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