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The Mindful Photographer by David Ulrich

Obregon Obregon

Is from: Southold, US
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Tue 23-Nov-21 03:31 PM
The Mindful Photographer:Awake in the World with a Camera by David Ulrich

I am not spiritual. I believe in reason. In many ways that makes it hard for me to review this book.

The author says he takes a Zen approach to photography. I have studied Zen for many years and though I think I understand its principles as explained by a number of writers, I still find I cannot make it a way of life. David Ulrich has apparently grasped it.

This book deals with mastering the most important tool in photography: the photographer’s mind. It offers an answer to the question how we should prepare our mind for photography. It explores the question in a series of short essays. The book includes many of the subjects that are important to the use of the photographers’ minds, and I agree with most of the content. But his approach is almost directly opposite to that of the rational mind. It emphasizes being open to the subject and being in the moment.

Don’t get me wrong. This approach can be useful to some photographers in their search for better images (whatever that means). It may even be good for more rationally oriented photographers to challenge the mental grounds on which they approach photography, even if they reject Ulrich’s approach.

As I read through this book, I was reminded of another book recently presented by the same publisher: Joe McNally’s “The Real Deal”. It explores much the same ground but in far less mystical terms. It spoke more to me than these homilies.

I was particularly put off by the way the author regularly quoted well known artists to support his point. For example he quotes Picasso who said “Art is a lie that tells us the truth.” He suggests that Picasso meant that it was okay for a photograph to lie in pursuit of some higher truth. Students of the great artist will know that Picasso was talking about the fact that art is not a reflection of reality, but a modification by using other methods to arrive at a conclusion. Similarly most folks who are familiar with Avedon’s “In the West” will know that the portraits shown there were not meant to be ironic. People who interpret Robert Frank’s elevator operator photograph as reflecting the grinding nature of work have never examined the complete contact sheet of the roll of film where the subject is most often shown smiling.

This book may be useful to photographers who have not explored the relationship of their inner lives to photography. Just be aware that that adopting the tenets of an eastern religion may not help you make better photographs.