The Tao of Photography: Seeing Beyond Seeing; Philippe L. Gross, S. I. Shapiro

I chose this book because of a post I read, while surfing for something about psychology and photography. (Don’t ask me why, I now, don’t remember). But I am glad, I did. It is good book, and probably deserves more than the three stars I have given it.

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The Tao of Photography: Seeing Beyond Seeing is a book that may get easily misinterpreted as a book about photography technique. It does talk of camera work, method, and techniques. But it is not a book that teaches you photography. At all; if you ask me. The book provides a context to being a photographer in a Taoistic framework, if you will. The book is replete with references and quotes from famous photographers who have found the zen-like state as they took their photographs.

It is essentially a philosophy book, in the context of photography. And an important one, I would think, as more and more of photographic work becomes slave to micro and meta definition. While understanding the science and the technology of photograph is important (and the book makes a small case for it), photographers have an urgent need to get out of the rut of classification and belonging – as more and more photographs start looking the same, there are few that pierce your heart and ooze out emotion, the way they should. Of course, with so many photographs being clicked in the world – finding such photos has become very difficult indeed. But if you do understand this philosophy and are able to import it in your ‘act of photography’, you may find your self discovering things about your art – especially, if you feel stagnated in your work.

The book itself has a very interesting and varying showcase of work from some of the greats, which makes it an interesting read as visual context to the words is woven well. Some of the sections are repetitive – and I have now resigned to this form of writing by most contemporary writers of the non-fiction genre. It seems that constant reminders of the theme of the book is the new template and technique of the modern non-fiction.

If you would like to understand the mind and state of a good photographer, this is a very good book. If you expect tips and techniques to take good photographs, this is not a very good book. If you are willing to keep an open mind and be with the book and yourself, you might discover some interesting secrets about the art you love so much.

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