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Book Review – Perception And Imaging: Photography – A Way of Seeing By Richard D. Zakia

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Perception And Imaging: Photography – A Way of Seeing begins with a quote by Henri Cartier-Bresson, "Photography has not changed since is origin except in its technical aspects, which for me are not a major concern." This statement was credited to him in 1978. In the age of the digital image, is this statement still true? According to the author, even today, "Pictures, regardless of how they are created, and recreated, are intended to be looked at." This brings to the foreground, not the technology, but rather the process of seeing.

Perception And Imaging is about the process of visualizing, and how it relates to creating images.  In the preface, the author reminds us that the best of the best started out as amateurs. He shows in the book even the great Edward Weston was disappointed back in 1911 when he only won honorable mention with his entry of "Lets Play Hooky" in a photographic contest.

Chapter 1, "Selection" explores how the mind selects the images it sees. There are images we have all seen, in that, where if you look one way, you see a profile of a woman, another way it is the profile of an old mans head. This chapter begins to explain how to we see. Chapter 2, "Gestalt Grouping" examines the use of the gestalt method of how man organizes and groups visual elements so that they are perceived as wholes. That is, how you perceive items as a whole is completely different than how you see them as individual elements.

Chapter 3, "Memory and Association" discusses memory as part of perception problems associated with that. One needs to photograph what they see, not what they know. Chapter 4, "Space, Time, and Color," examine how through space, we find depth, size and texture, through time we find movement, fluctuation and flicker, and through color we find brightness, saturation, and hue. These all add to what we are seeing and how we visualize it.

Chapter 5, "Contours" explains that artists have been using the contrast edges between adjacent areas to bring out contours; or edges, for years. Where the sharp edges occur, a battle for control takes place. This chapter shows how to make use of this battle to control your own images. Chapter 6, "Illusion and Ambiguity" shows how, by using illusion, you can create your own reality, because a well done illusion appears to be real.

Chapter 7, "The Morphics" is about form, and the different forms objects can take. This can translate to your photograph. Here the relationship that is established between what is being photographed, and the photographer is important. It brings in projection; what the photographer brings to the object being photographed, introjection; attempting to listen to what the object has to reveal, and confluence; where the object and the photographer become as one.

Chapter 8, "Personality" reminds us that photographs, like photographers are unique. They exhibit the qualities that are brought to them by the person taking the picture. This requires us to see things from different points of view or else we may not relate to the photograph. Chapter 9, "Subliminals" examines those items which affect our perception that is below the consciousness. These are things that we are not aware of, but still affect our perception of an object and subsequently on the photograph.

Chapter 10, "Critiquing Photographs" shows how the context in which a photograph appears, determines how the image is perceived. Here you will learn how to properly critique a photograph, how this process is subjective, and will differ between different individuals. Chapter 11, "Rhetoric" examines how to use photography as a communication medium and how the power of visuals to persuade. Here you will learn how to use visuals and/or words to alter meanings of the images you create.

Perception And Imaging is one of those books that if it isn't already — it is in its third edition — will be a seminal classic text that is mandatory reading for anyone who is serious about photography and visual communications. The text is geared toward the beginning college student, but that only goes to show that it is a serious book for the serious student.

Learning to taking pictures; by using adjustments and controls, as well as all the manipulation that can go on in the dark room; both wet and digital, can be learned elsewhere, here you will learn how to see the image, create the image, and capture the image.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.