Back To The Beginning
When I was in the throes of falling in love with photography, a young man looking for something to be good at, some way to express myself, my mother gave me two great gifts. The first was the Pentax Spotmatic, and not the camera I thought I wanted/needed to begin my illustrious journey in imaging. The second was a copy of Freeman Patterson’s Photography and the Art of Seeing. That Spotmatic is long retired, though I have another sitting on my desk as a reminder of my roots and my first-love. The book is long gone, probably disappeared in the chaos of one of many moves during college years, but yesterday I bought another copy and it’s sitting here now, not far from my Spotmatic. You know you’re getting older when you get nostalgic about these things.
I’m not writing this as a trip down memory lane; I’m pretty sure you don’t care that much. I wanted to encourage you to consider two things.
1. Go back to the beginning and recall what drew you to this art to begin with – what was it that you loved so much about photography that you’d commit to spending so much money on glass, metal, film, or all the digital detritus that litters the path to imaging these days? Do you still feel it? If not, it’s time to grope your way back to that, to rediscover the joy of seeing in new ways, expressing yourself in new forms.
2. Read Patterson’s book. It’s on it’s way to becoming a classic and many of us wouldn’t give it a second look. There are no pictures of shiny gear. There is not a single discussion of which camera or lens is better. The photographs in it do not move me the way they once did. But the exercises Patterson discusses, the concepts surrounding learning to see, are not just theory – they are absolutely critical.
Re-reading this book has been more than sentimentality, it’s been a reminder of the very first lessons I ever had in photography. If you read here often I assume it’s for more than just the cute little buttons at the head of each post (in fact, more than likely it’s despite the buttons! Deal with it.) I assume you get something from what I write. In some ways you’re reading the 20-year distillation of my original experience with this book. It’s what started me on the path of nurturing the artist and not just allowing the geek to run amok. If you have a chance, go to the source material and read, absorb, Patterson’s Photography and The Art of Seeing.