Review: The Education of a Photographer


Book Reviews

I admit I am not all that much of a photographic theorist. While I do think that it is worthwile to look at what people have been doing in the past, I am a bit torn about studying what, say, Alfred Steiglitz and his group were discussing, at least as far as the theory of photography is concerned. What I do enjoy, though, is reading interviews with photographers or articles that give me an idea of what they were/are thinking about their work. Needless to say, this all is a matter of personal preference, and you might find yourself being bored with interviews but very excited about longish articles in the Benjamin-Barthes-Sontag mold. The Education of a Photographer is a new book that, I think, will be able to make everybody happy.

The Education of a Photographer seems to be written based on the premise that without studying the theory of photography you can’t become a good photographer - but then if I was the head of some fine-arts school I’d probably say that, too. In any case, the book contains a fine mix of articles and interviews that will allow you to cherry-pick whatever you are interested in, and to (hopefully) be surprised by other stuff that you previously didn’t even think about.

The one thing that I’d really like to stress about the book is that it is very likely, that - given the wide range of articles and interviews - you will find articles that you do not agree with at all or stuff that you will find outright silly. Very often, I personally realize that dealing with an article that I do not agree with results in much more than reading something that is right up my alley. Getting your own views confirmed usually will not make you think much (if at all) - finding something to disagree on will. And I have the feeling that a photographer might learn more from failures, disagreements, or resistance than from success, agreements, or a smooth ride (but then what do I know?). So check out the book - at the price (it’s a paperback) it’s a steal anyway.