The Photographer´s Vision, Michael Freeman

Understanding and Appreciating great Photography

In the last days I was literally absorbed by the lecture of the new book from Michael Freeman. Michael Freeman is a true teacher for me. I have learned a lot about photography from
his classical textbooks: The Photographer's Eye, The Photographer's Mind, Perfect Exposure, The complete guide to Black & White Digital Photography.

It is an excellent book about the whats, the whys and the hows in modern photography.  The book is written in a very sofisticated level, it exceeds by far the traditional photographic criticism and it goes deep into the field of philosophy of arts. It takes a lot of effort to read this books, most probably you have to read and reread this book, come forth and back on specific subject mater. But the lecture is very rewarding, it is a kind of journey through the vast landscapes of contemporary photography. Afterwards you would most probably come away enlightened, looking through a much wider horizon and with a new vision to what photography is all about ...

The book is divided in tree main parts as follow:

  I. A Momentary Art
 II. Understanding Purpose
     The Genres of Photography
     What For?
     Capture to Concept

III. Photographers' Skills
     Surprise Me
     The Skill to Capture
     Compositional Skills
     Color and Not

Here are two extracts from the first part of the book:


Takes directly from real life (Although the camera can be used to construct images, particularly in studio work, the great strength of photography is that the physical world around us provides the material. This elevates the importance of the subject, the event; and the reporting of this is obviously something at which photography excels. At the same time, however, this ease of capture reduces the value of accurate representation, because it has become commonplace--very different from the early view of painting, when Leonardo da Vinci wrote in his notebook that "painting is most praiseworthy which is most like the thing represented." Instead, the way in which photographers document --the style and treatment-- becomes more significant.At a deeper level, there is an inherent paradox between depicting reality and yet being something completely apart as a freestanding image. Other arts, like painting, poetry, and music, are obvious as constructs. There is no confusion in anyone's mind that a poem or a song have originated anywhere else but in the mind of their creator, and that the experience in life that they refer to has been filtered through an imagination, and that some time has been taken to do this. In this respect, photographs do create confusion. The image is, in most cases, so clearly of a real scene, object, or person, and yet it remains just an image that can be looked at quietly in completely divorced circumstances. It is of real life, and at the same time separate. This contradiction offers many possibilities for exploration, and much contemporary fine- art photography does just that, including making constructions to mimic real-life content ).

Fast and easy.

Can be taken by anyone.

Has a specific look  ( Whatever choice of paper texture and coating you make for a print, the image itself is completely without a third dimension. The frame is a window, and this sets photography apart from painting and from any kind of imagery created by hand. In many ways, this lack of physical presence makes screen display perfect, and this is increasingly how most photographs get viewed. In terms of its look, photography begins with the viewer's expectation that the contents are "real"--taken from real life. In fact, we relate the appearance of a photograph to two things: how we ourselves see, and how we have learned to accept the look of a photograph. We are very sensitive to the naturalism and "realism" of a photograph. The further that a photographer takes the image away from this, by complicated processing or unusual post-production techniques, the less the image is photographic. This is not a criticism, just a statement of obvious fact. The basic photographic look relies on the assumption that very little has been done to the image since it was captured. Photography also has its own vocabulary of imagery, not found anywhere else. This includes such things as differential focus, a limited dynamic range, motion blur, flare artefacts, less-than-fully-saturated colors, and the possibility of rendering the image entirely in black and white. )


1. Is skillfully put together
2. Provokes a Reaction
3. Offers more than one layer of experience
4. Has its context in photography
5. Contains an idea
6. Doesn't imitate

Michael Freeman, The Photographer´s Vision. Ilex 2011.


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