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Tuesday, 07 June 2011


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Seems to be a theme emerging...

What can I say? Ommmmmm!

Seriously though, I shall give Ken's recommendation a look.

Despite all that can be gained by teachers, mentors, and books that address what lies beyond the technical mastery, I still believe that the best teacher in art are the photographs of artists you admire.

Trying to reverse-engineer what's behind them, figuring out not just how but why, and finally, building a broader pictorial culture, are all steps that visual artists have constantly performed, but what's important about them is that they are significant, personally and culturally.

Methods are cultural choices masquerading as universals. Deciding to go "one step further" in photography means not just taking "better" pictures, but engaging with the culture that surrounds you, imitating it, arguing against it, praising it, or denying it, discarding what is of little interest to you and absorbing intensely what is fascinating.

Most people don't necessarily know where to start because the photographic visual culture is often reduced to a particular canon of Great Men. Is it possible that HCB is irrelevant to me, as a 21st century man from Québec? Perhaps. Maybe I don't want to engage with him, even though he's a so-called "master".

I have the same feeling for Zen philosophy: so much of it is Orientalism for the Nippon geeks, even though it may be of profund importance to Japanese people.

Going "one step further" in photography means asking yourself all kinds of question about the people with whom you live, or forgot that you live with, before you start shopping for another "method."

I acquired this book recently and would endorse all that Ken says. It really is a breath of fresh air with some very inspiring photographs.

Paul Giguere interviewed Michael Wood about the philosophy advocated in the book in his Thoughts on Photography podcast a couple of years ago. It's at http://www.thoughtsonphotography.com/to_p_0054_michael_wood_miksang_photography

Mike perhaps as a new fundraiser you should start selling WWBS wristbands.

This sounds like "Miksang Photography." There is an exhibition of photographs from this school (there are workshops here in Boulder) in my local cafe. Much of it is very good, certainly the best work that I've seen in the cafe ;-).

I have this book and find it a disappointment after Chapter 1. At the beginning, the authors set out their approach by reference to great photographs, and their interpretations are inspiring. However, in the remaining sixteen chapters, they use only photographs they have taken, and the repetitiveness of style and the banality of the images combined with self-obvious text makes for a boring and ultimately deflating book. My impression is that the authors simply did not want to pay for the rights to use more first class pictures. What we get is a placebo book. I wish readers demanded as much from photography how-tos as they demand from other camera gear.

Sorry Ken, but for me the proof is in the pudding, and Karr and Wood's miksang photos taste to me mostly, well, like pudding. Pleasing pudding, but pudding.

Thanks for the thoughtful review. I'm on Shambhala's mailing list so I've seen this book announced, wasn't sure what to make of it.



First Sanskrit, now Buddhism...

Actually, only joking. Book is ordered, thanks Ken.


Do the authors credit Minor White? He was publishing articles, organizing exhibits and teaching workshops and classes at RIT and MIT which reflected his interest in Zen philosophy and photographic practice.White passed away in 1976bd ( before digital}

@ ken ross: Not White, but they seem to credit nearly everybody else in the first chapter. In fact the first chapter exclusively features classic, familiar images (Steigltz, Kertész, Strand, Weston, et.al.) to set the objective stage for the rest of the book.

@ latent image & Harriet Rubin: Bear in mind that the book is principally designed as a teaching medium, not as a photo book. The authors' use of primarily their own, and their associates', images was certainly essential to best illustrate their instructional goals in each chapter.

I never got the impression that the book's images are necessarily presented as destinations, although most certainly are excellent final products. Rather, they are presented as visual aids to illustrate the essence of concepts. How you apply the lessons of the book to your own photography is up to you.

@ JohnW: Rest assured that the authors give that stumbling block several hard kicks, the first of which comes in the second chapter:

"Strangely enough, you don't need to learn how to be artistic. It is as natural as breathing and the beating of your heart. Nevertheless, natural artistry is often inaccessible because it is concealed by preoccupation or resentment."

The authors implore the reader to shake-off preconceptions and visual templates several more times in the book.

Worth mentioning in this discussion is Eugene Herrigel's Zen in the Art of Archery, which I actually found out about from TOP!


"...Zen philosophy: so much of it is Orientalism for the Nippon geeks, even though it may be of profund importance to Japanese people."

Michel: No need to worry, Zen is about as irrelevant to most Japanese as it is to you. I took a course on Zen in university and still remember more about it than most Japanese I have ever met since first coming to Japan nearly 2 decades ago.

Although I have yet to buy this book, I shall, because I so enjoyed Michael Wood's workshop (Miksang Photography) several years ago. It illuminated my photography and my visual experience. We are better photographers the more we see:

Ken's review makes it seem a worthwhile book, but the photo on the cover proves otherwise. Just awful, in all the ways the book itself denounces -- banal, hackneyed, falsely (un)clever, devoid of either meaning or emotion or content.

Im sure there are better pics in the book. But the cover dissuades me from ever confirming that. Sorry.

Probably (by which I mean virtually certainly) a bad litmus test. The last time an author got to pick his or her own cover was reportedly in 1815, and that was only because the author threatened to disembowel himself with a dagger.

Or maybe it was a dirk.

Anyway, until you have ironclad proof you are dealing with one of the rare exceptions, you can assume by default that the author of any given book hates the cover too.


Thanks Ken for your informative review. This is a book that I'm going to order based on your observations.

Mike thanks for the Book Depositary link , great for us in faraway lands.

This is primarily a book about seeing and visual awareness. Once you are tuned in to the world around you, there are pictures everywhere, so you no longer need to go somewhere exotic to make a "good" picture!

This approach is highly recommended, and will shake up your visual perception. You can also learn this approach at most Shambala centers around the country. Just google "Miksang".

Once you've done this you'll no longer feel like making the same images everyone else is making.

Another in this genre worth mentioning here is The Zen of Creativity, by the late zen priest, John Daido Loori. Although his attention spans all elements of what creativity means to a Zen practitioner, his principles inevitably influence the practice of photography (he was, after all, a photographer, himself, among other distiguishing vocations and avocations).

Dammit, I get so exited when I read a good review like this one that I impulsively click thru and order the book immediately. I'm winnowing away my available budget for buying more technical crap.....

Seriously, I can hardly wait to sit with this book.

Indeed, John Loori studied with Minor White.


A similar book which also does not give appropriate credit to Minor White.

I have to say I found this simplistic and banal book to be a complete waste of time, space and money.

Anyone want my copy for the price of the postage?

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