I’d been waiting on this book for forever ( about close to a year ) but it was out-of-stock everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. I requested notifications from all the online stores in India that sell books as soon as the book was back in stock and then I kept a hawk-eye on my Inbox. I waited and waited and finally one of the stores pinged me with the notification and I quickly made the purchase. Some more waiting for the delivery – it’s an imported edition and was being shipped from the U.S. And finally, it’s HERE!
I was first introduced to this book by David Hobby via his Strobist blog. Now I take everything David says quite seriously but his book recommendations especially so because he recommends so few of them.
I had not heard about Dan Winters previously, nor had I heard about his book, Road To Seeing. And I’m glad I did. Dan has exquisite work and the book is an insightful glimpse into who he is and how he got here. ( I prefer photography books that inspire me and reveal more about a photographer’s journey than books that teach technique. )
“I make it a habit to approach every picture as though it were my last.” Fruitful yet tough habit to live by. Dan Winters’ Road To Seeing is about his journey as a person and as a photographer. Almost one-third of the start of the book is about the various jobs he held, his student days and his learning. The next section presents some of his well-known portraits and photographs with a 2-3 page accompanying article that describes his experiences and how he made that particular picture.
For example, for the photograph below of Denzel Washington, Dan cites the above Francis Bacon work as an inspiration. It is quite stunning to see how the above was interpreted into a real photograph, what the differentiating elements were and how Dan set up the shot / set.
Not only does the book talk about photography and Dan’s journey but also things he learned about people and other insights along the way. “The average consumer prefers their stars removed from reality, stripped of the inherent flaws that make them human.” Dan has photographed multitudes of celebrities during his career so far. He is only 52 years old and you can read more about him on this Wikipedia Page.
“Photographs should not need to be explained. The photographic image should stand on its own.” The above quote stood out to me mainly because I’ve recently launched an online store where you can purchase canvas prints of some of my photographs and I struggle with what to name each print as well as what I should write in the description. I feel that even if I was to discount my laziness about all that writing and thought, art and even photographs are somehow lessened by adding a detailed description. What I see in a picture is not at all necessarily what you might see in it and my adding a description limits the potential of what that picture might mean to someone else.
If you’ve visited Dan’s website, you will recognize the above emblem as his logo.
A portrait of Jim Carrey below. Very uncharacteristic of what he has come to be recognized by.
“You can kiss your family and friends goodbye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach. Because you do not just live in the world, the world lives in you.” – Frederick Buechner
My rating for the book is a 10/10.
The photographs Dan has shared are impeccable and the story that has been spun around them is beautiful. One of those books that inspire you to look at your own images in a different light. Make you more mindful of your process. Heighten your sensitivity to your craft. I’m thrilled to have this on my bookshelf and that I can pick it up whenever I need a shot of morale. To know that someone like Dan ( who didn’t start with being a photographer ) can create such mesmerising work, gives inspiration in an industry that these days seems rife with mediocre and “just getting by” work, at least in India.
Unfortunately it all started with a damaged book delivery by uRead.com and no resolution to my satisfaction either.
( One option they gave me was to return-ship this damaged copy to them. Then they would re-order a fresh copy for me – it’s imported so they are unable to give me a guarantee on timelines and neither are they able to confirm the quality of the shipment. So this could take months, while I sit and wait for the book for which I’ve already paid. And since this book is usually out-of-stock, those “months” could be several. I requested them to kindly first get the other copy and courier it to me and once I’d received it and was satisfied with it, I would return-ship the older/damaged piece to them. Of course they were not agreeable to this and kept re-iterating, “We’re sorry for the inconvenience but this is how it’s going to go” etc. They also send me an INR 500 voucher to use on their store – maybe they were hoping I would be happy with more damaged products. All in all, a 02 / 10 for uRead.com and the 02 rating is also only because I finally got to read the book I’d been waiting on for almost a full year! So the 02 rating is only thanks to the book and not anything uRead.com did. )
A 10/10 rating for the book.