On being a photographer, by Bill Jay, and David Hurn.

Bobby Ironsights

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Dec 3, 2006
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Thunder Bay, ON, Canada
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It seems like I've read one hell of alot about the technique of photography in the past term, and before. Textbooks mostly, and also reveiwed and critiqued the works of famous photographers, and sat in on the presentations of fellow students. I've sat through COUNTLESS hours of lecture, and printed in a darkroom, hours weekly, with a lab tech breathing over my shoulder and a clock ticking like a metronome.

I've also spent many long nights, of longer than 12 hours at a time in my bathroom, under a OC safelight, making print after print, rocking trays and counting seconds.

I've spent time in bed, annoying my GF trying to sleep, while I kept the light on reading through the works of photochemists like Bill Troop, searching for the holy Grail of developer/fixer/toner combinations.

I've wasted more time than I can possibly account for without shame, poring over MTF charts for lenses. It's just ridiculous.

I've learned alot, I really have. I know I've learned alot. I can now catch my professor and my lab tech off guard, and realise sometimes, that I know more about some dark corners of the arcane techniques of photography than they have. It's an unsettling feeling when it happens, tinged with dark, petty pride. The sort of feeling a fat 13 year old schoolboy has when he's alone in a dark corner of his treehouse stuffing his face with shoplifted chocolate bars from the corner grocery.

But there have always been blind spots. Failures in my photography that were never addressed. I knew that there was something else I needed to know, but didn't know what questions needed to be adressed. These blind spots haven't been minor things, but big gaping holes!

In reading this short book, I've found vast swaths painted over. I read it, in two sittings, broken only by the demand of my GF that I go to bed, because I'm sick, and she'll nag till I follow orders.

I'm ecstatic!!!

It's lovely!

But I would never have been so delighted with it, had I not had been exposed to all the dreary technicalities first. It's really a treasure.:lovey:
So what is this book exactly? Is it about their expirence in a dark room. Im glad when I went through photography school it was all digital course. I have no use for film.
I too was curious and so I went to Amazon and looked up the reviews.

Most are very high rated, but... a couple were very hard on it, like this one:


40 of 86 people found the following review helpful:
BORING, April 20, 2002

If your idea of "photographic wisdom" is listening in on a couple of old farts pontificating and patting each other on the back while talking of days gone by and photos taken ages ago, then this book is for you... In summary, the book says:

1. Take lots of pictures - you must practice your art just like any other.
2. Compositional rules are for people who need them
3. Street photographers have to engage their subjects to get really good shots.

That's about it...

I think that it is one of those rare books that invoke a love or hate feeling, depending on if it touches a part of you that felt it was missing some kind of inspiration in a certain way.

I did not purcase this book, so I cannot represent myself as having knowledge of the content, but it sure impressed Bobby enough to want to share with us!​
After reading that book, I know exactly why the book got 95% rave reviews, and 5% horrible reviews.

This book is not about taking pictures, this is a book about making a photographer. This book is not about shutter speed and aperture combinations, and that's what disappoints some people.:er:

This book is about behaving in a professional manner. It shattered alot of my preconcieved notions about how top professionals actually function on a day to day basis. I've learned alot about attitude, workflow, and throughput - about how to establish and develop patterns of behaviour that will vastly increase my productivity as a photographer.

This book can really be summed up quite simply as a transcript.

Imagine two photographers, both grizzled veterans. One was behind the Iron Curtain for TIME magazine and shooting supermodels for Vogue while still in his 20's. He's been a member of MAGNUM, since before I was born. The other has been teaching photography in an upper crust British University since the 70's. They sit you down and lecture you on exactly how you should behave and how you should think to be a top notch photographer..... for about four hours. This is that transcript.

The first piece of advice they gave in the book?....Don't take any advice from second-rate photographers. It's worse than useless, bad habits take time to break.

Either glom on to two or more real professionals and apprentice with them, or teach yourself, using texts written by people who had long and successful professional careers.

If you really want to look at it that way, I guess you could agree that it's "two old farts, rambling away," like a few reviewers thought. That one bad reviewer also complained about "name dropping", but it wasn't name dropping! He was complaining about the descriptions of the daily working habits of specific professional photographers that the artists had worked alongside, and/or the volume of work the professor had studied. They used many concrete examples to illustrate and validate the points they were trying to get across.

One thing I noticed while reading this book is I was confronted again and again with my bad habits that explain why some of my photography goes very well, and sometimes very poorly. Hit or Miss. I had a great many "LIGHTBULB" moments.

I've been approaching my work like an amateur instead of with the final product in mind. A professional forms an idea for a project, pitchs the idea, receives feedback, develops goals. The professional does research on his subject, cements concrete goals and schedules his time and efforts to reach those goals with a deadline in mind...he makes his exposures, edits, receives feedback and makes certain his final product communicates his specific artistic vision....etc..etc..

These habits are really no different whether the photographer is a journalist for a paper, or an artist for a gallery. The top pros are (generally) focused, disciplined, and make very good use of their time. They don't skimp on research, and they work with the final results already in mind.

They are aware of their limitations and make good use of other people as resources to improve themselves and their work. Not random people, but specific people they've developed working relationships with, for specific skill-sets....

I should stop now, I've got a draft of a review I'm going to do for this book, and I'm just going to go on and on if I dont' stop now....

It's actually alot cheaper to buy this book direct from the publisher, and I think they offer a direct download option.
Yeah, I liked this book a lot. There's several threads where I've promoted it.

For instance here:
So what is this book exactly? Is it about their expirence in a dark room. Im glad when I went through photography school it was all digital course. I have no use for film.

LOL? Srsly, I lol'd out loud.
TBH, I have no use for digital.
Film still > digital.

I saw this book and considered picking it up. Perhaps I will now.

EDIT: 400th post

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