Book Review: The Nature of Photographs: A Primer

You can look but can you see

I've always loved Stephen Shore's work ever since I bought his 'Uncommon Places' book in 1983. It has two of my favorite Shore images: La Brea Avenue & Beverley Boulevard and El Paso Street, El Paso (both taken in 1975) this last one is in 'The Nature of Photography'. A photographer is perhaps the ideal person to tell others about the fundamentals of looking at photos and my appreciation of Shore's work was enough to make me buy this hardback in 2008.

It certainly has some quite stunning photos, especially where they relate to specific text and many thought provoking points come across but I was left with the impression that there should have been more or a different way to explain what there is. The book's photos are a key element in how to understand what is going on and I would have preferred to have seen others that didn't work as obviously as the ones that do. Shore, like any creative photographer, must have taken many images that he doesn't think work as well as the final choice. Seeing some lesser alternatives to the ones in the book would have improved it no end by explaining why photo A reveals a fundamental point beautifully but photo B doesn't. I thought too many visual concepts were put across more by words than images.

Shore says that he used Szarkowski's The Photographer's Eye when he started teaching and his book carries on the theme. Overall I still prefer Szarkowski's book, there are far more photos included and the presentation is much more user friendly than the hard edge Phaidon design, with its excessive amounts of empty page space and trendy use of a typewriter font for every bit of text.

Incidentally as both books are concerned with image appreciation and understanding maybe a DVD format would work just as well as these printed versions.

The Nature of Photographs: A Primer is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

The Nature of Photographs: A Primer - 01
Shore's wonderful 'El Paso Street, El Paso' 1976.

The Nature of Photographs: A Primer - 02

The Nature of Photographs: A Primer - 03
Thomas Struth's 'Pantheon, Rome' 1990.

The Nature of Photographs: A Primer - 04
Walker Evans famous 'Gas station, Reedsville, West Virginia' 1936.

The Nature of Photographs: A Primer - 05

The Nature of Photographs: A Primer - 06

The Nature of Photographs: A Primer - 07

The Nature of Photographs: A Primer - 08

The Nature of Photographs: A Primer - 09

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