Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chapter Titles and Excerpts from the Book

To better help prospective readers decide if this is an e-book for them, here are Zen and the Art of Portrait Photography's chapter titles. (Listed below.)

The chapter titles are all in the form of quotes. Most of the quotes are from iconic photographers although a few are from others. Please note some of the quotes I've used as chapter titles are likely, in terms of the content of the chapters they introduce, more apparent than others.

Still further below, I've provided a few, very short excerpts from the book.

There will always be those who look only at technique, who ask 'how,' while others of a more curious nature will ask 'why.' Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information. -Man Ray

Chapter 1
There's no meaning to a flower unless it blooms. -Zen Proverb

Chapter 2
A technically perfect photograph can be the world’s most boring picture. -Andreas Feininger

Chapter 3
Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth and you will know the key to photography
-George Eastman

Chapter 4
Get your lighting and exposure correct at the start and both developing and printing can be practically automatic.
-Edward Weston

Chapter 5
Consulting the rules of composition before taking a photograph is like consulting the laws of gravity before going for a walk.
-Edward Weston

Chapter 6
Good photography speaks with silence. -Anonymous

Chapter 7
Faith is believing something you know ain't true.
-Mark Twain

Chapter 8
I'm breaking all the rules I didn't make.

Chapter 9
While photographs may not lie, liars may photograph.
-Lewis Wickes Hine

Chapter 10
If you want reality take the bus.
-David LaChapelle

Chapter 11
A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion... All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth. -Richard Avedon

Chapter 12
The infinite is in the finite of every instant.
-Zen Proverb

Chapter 13
It is more important to click with people than to click the shutter.
-Alfred Eisenstaedt

Chapter 14
Any photographer who says he’s not a voyeur is either stupid or a liar.
-Helmut Newton

Chapter 15
Photography has been the art form of the untalented. Obviously some pictures are more satisfactory than others but where is credit due? To the designer of the camera? To the finger on the button? To the law of averages?
-Gore Vidal

Chapter 16
When I have sex with someone I forget who I am. For a minute I even forget I’m human. It’s the same thing when I’m behind a camera. I forget I exist.
-Robert Mapplethorpe

Chapter 17
Technical skill is mastery of complexity while creativity is mastery of simplicity.
-Sir Erik Christopher Zeeman

Chapter 18
I’ve always cared more about taking pictures than about the art market.
-Annie Leibovitz

Chapter 19
I think a lot of the time these days people are so concerned about having the right camera and the right film and the right lenses and all the special effects that go along with it, even the computer, that they're missing the key element. -Herb Ritts

Chapter 20
When you reach the top keep climbing.
-Zen Proverb

A Short Excerpt From Chapter 2: A technically perfect photograph can be the world’s most boring picture. -Andreas Feininger

Like many film photographers, when I first made the jump from film to digital I was immediately struck with the exciting and seemingly unlimited possibilities digital photography offered.

Beyond the instant feedback of the cameras, the ability to easily
manipulate so many elements of my photos was electric! It seemed that perfect photos, technically perfect photos, were more readily within my grasp. Not only could I fix, in post-production, many production mistakes I might have made, I could bestow what appeared to be technical perfection on those images. And I could do so regularly and consistently! In some ways, I felt like a carpenter who, for the very first time, was given power tools to work with...

...As my Photoshop skills became improved, I realized it wasn't just the technical aspects of my photos that could appear perfect or near perfect, I could make the subjects of my work more perfect. Photoshop offered so many power tools to accomplish this: Gaussian Blur, Diffusion Glow, the Liquify tool, various “healing” tools, and so many more.

Suddenly, beyond technical mistakes I might have made when capturing the photos, it mattered less if my subjects had put on a few pounds, had an outbreak of acne, were having a bad hair day or, if my subject were female, I didn't care for the shade of lipstick she was wearing. It was all fixable or changeable.

A Short Excerpt From Chapter 5: Consulting the rules of composition before taking a photograph is like consulting the laws of gravity before going for a walk. -Edward Weston

Composition, good composition, make that great composition, is one of those things that, for successful portrait photographers, should become instinctive and automatic much the way getting the technical elements correct in the camera should also become. Automatically framing your shots with good composition should become as natural as standing and knowing how to move one foot in front of another, again and again, without feeling the need, as Weston remarked, to first brush up on the laws of gravity before going for a walk.

Although we don't need to learn the laws of gravity in order to walk, it's a pretty good idea to know something of the rules of composition – what generally works and what doesn't – in order to become photographers who naturally, instinctively, and automatically apply said rules of composition (or break them) in effective ways.

While it's true some people seem gifted with a natural eye for composition, the good news is that we are all gifted with a natural ability, aware of it or not, to recognize good composition when we see it. Because of that, whether our natural recognition of good composition is consciously realized or not, it represents a universal gift enabling all of us to develop a good compositional-eye for use in our photography.

A Short Excerpt from Chapter 12: The infinite is in the finite of every instant. -Zen Proverb

When someone is posing in front of your camera, comfortably or with obvious anxiety, moving effortlessly or clumsily from one pose and expression to the next while you, camera raised to your eye, snap away, hoping to get the shot, the prize, capture the decisive moment, the little moment that isn't little, we understand that timing is everything.

While timing is everything, the moments we capture do not preclude viewers from imagining other moments where timing is less obvious: Invisible moments which may or may not have taken place before and after the shutter was clicked. They are the unseen moments which help a photo speak with silence. They are the invisible photographs within our photograph that Roland Barthes, the French literary theorist, philosopher, and critic, referred to when he said, 'A photograph is always invisible, it is not it that we see.'

Unseen moments and invisible photographs might be real or imaginary in the context of what actually took place when the photo was snapped. Either way, they are moments which often hold equal rank to the decisive or fleeting moments Cartier-Bresson and Karsh speak of, especially in many types of portrait photography.

Still photographs are not flying by the way films roll at 24 frames-per-second. Viewers have, as already discussed, as much time as they're willing to spend examining, contemplating, and appraising the single frame, the still photo. When they do that, they often add their own imaginary moments: Imaginary moments (or invisible photographs) which create stories or form perceptions or construct other notions about the people in the portraits.

A Short Excerpt From Chapter 16: When I have sex with someone I forget who I am. For a minute I even forget I’m human. It’s the same thing when I’m behind a camera. I forget I exist. -Robert Mapplethorpe

As photographers, when you venture into that two-dimensional,
scaled-down, finite world, little else outside of that world should matter, including yourselves. An extreme example is war photographers. How else could they do what they do without momentarily forgetting the danger they might be in?

Focus isn't simply about what your lens is doing. Focus is also about what you're doing. Being focused with your eye, your mind, your creative senses, nearly all your total being, is the place I hope to be whenever I'm shooting. It's a place you should strive to be when you're shooting. When that happens, when it seems like you cease to exist and little else matters but what is in your viewfinder, you'll be in that special place where magic takes place: Photographic magic.

Eighth Century A.D. Chinese Zen Master, Hsi-Tang Chih Tsang, observed, "Although gold dust is precious, when it gets in your eyes it obstructs your vision."

As photographers, our vision can too easily be clouded or distracted by many things. I've never experienced gold dust in my eyes but I know that many other things, while I'm shooting, are in competition with what I'm seeing in my viewfinder. When I seemingly cease to exist, leastwise momentarily and for any other purpose than to examine and record what's in my viewfinder, I'm better able to ignore distractions and my images are automatically improved.