Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Expressive Photography }{ Book Review

The philosopher David Chalmers said in "The Conscious Mind" that "to be conscious is to have subjective experience." He proposed that our conscious experience has a subjective quality, our cognitive agency. As we experience the world, that experience is uniquely ours. No one can feel and experience exactly the same as another. We feel life differently.

But I do believe we all share a need to interpret the world. How we feel it and understand it makes our perspective unique, but we all try in our own ways to make sense of it. And share it. Though we never quite accomplish this, we try so often to share with others how we feel.

Or maybe that's just me. Do you do that too? Try to help others understand how you experience something? Try to understand how others experience something?

Photography to me is at the epicenter of this. Visual experience can evoke powerful feelings and by sharing an image we hope to share certain feelings. Of course, this same image will evoke a different experience for someone else. Still...

Again I'm letting my thoughts wonder too much away from the point at hand. The review. But there is a connection, I promise.

"Expressive Photography" by the Shutter Sisters proposes to "not only show you why certain images sing, but will also teach you how to create your own compelling images." The aim is to achieve those photographs that you "not only see, but feel." You see the connection now? This book speaks directly to the need to share our feelings through images (or for some of us, text, movement, taste, sound, etc). 

The things I like in this book:
  • It has a poetic quality to its prose and approach to photography. The Shutter Sisters do shoot from the heart, and they share this vision with their readers in the blog and here in the book.
  • The topics (ranging from childhood, togetherness, and stillness to documentary, spaces, and table among others) each include a short section on approach, perspective, composition, lighting, details, and processing. Each of these aspects of a photograph can make it or break it, and giving attention to them individually for each topic elucidates the differences between subjects.
  • They share settings and strategies behind many of the images in the book.
  • And of course, lovely photos.
Although I love this book, I'll also include a warning/con:
  • It's not easy for someone who's just beginning. What I mean is that to fully take advantage of what the book offers, it helps to have a basic understanding of exposure and the settings on your camera. Of course, this is just my opinion and if you're interested (because it does have a lot to offer) but have no experience with a camera, I'd check it out if you can. 
I love this book and I frequently take it out of the shelf to re-read suggestions like this (in the portraiture section):

"A portrait is not just an image; it's a vibrant collaboration between photographer and subject. Just like stopping and listening to someone share a story with you, we are listening to the stories people tell with their eyes and their hands, their gestures and their expressions, and distilling them in photographs."

disclaimer: If it feels like I've been giving really good reviews to the books in my review posts, that's because I've been reviewing the books I have kept, used, and enjoyed. 

How do you like to share your experiences with others? 


  1. That cover gave me an idea - and I can always use those! :-D

    I´m so fed up with computers after the week I´ve had, but now at least Photoshop is working as it should so I can breathe again..! :-D

  2. I'm glad you've reviewed this book - it is on my wish list and it's always helpful to get an opinion from other people whose photos or work you like! I will definitely be buying this one as soon as I can.

  3. I love the cover of this book!
    They share settings and strategies behind many of the images in the book.
    That's so cool!

  4. This looks like a must have for me! Thanks for the review!