Book Report: Road To Seeing
I love to play tennis.
However, I really don’t like to watch tennis.
Kind of the same thing with photography book. I’d rather be taking photos than reading books about it.
However, when the opportunity arose to pick up Dan Winters’ Road To Seeing, thanks to a Christmas gift card, I did.
I remember when the book came out a few years ago…it was alike a new version of the Bible or the Koran came out. Everyone HAD to get this book.
Rightly so, I guess. I’m a big fan of Dan’s work. His “look” is so unique, you can pick out a Winters portrait right away.
And Dan has been around as a working photographer much longer than I thought he was. My knowledge of photographers and photo history is always working to catch me up, since I started in all this so late (relatively) in my life. I think I first started become aware of Dan’s work via Fast Company or Wired magazine only about 10 years ago or so. I remember this Will Farrell spread, but was surprised it’s already been 8 years old.
Anyway, Road To Seeing traces Dan’s life history and his forway into photography. I was surprised to learn he was very much into cinematography and film making as well as making models for movies. His interest in still photography came later.
Then, I was interested to learn how much prep he puts into some portrait shoots. More specifically, how he builds sets that this subjects will inhabit to get the concept he wants to achieve.
Obviously his background in model building and carpentry comes in handy here. As do the budgets he commands for this shoots. I doubt we’ll all be going out to build sets when we do portraits shoots, but it did open my eyes to use things like chairs, couches, etc on set rather than just having people stand there. Dan says he has three large sheds with props he’s collected and uses over the years. I have a bar stool, a bench a couple of apple boxes and a lamp. But it’s a start!
Dan writes in the first person throughout. The tone is interesting though – Dan writes about his work and projects very, um, airily. It’s like he floats from job to job and everyone he shoot is so great work with and he’s so lucky and honored and indebted. He never writes about the bombs that go off during a shoot, the missteps, the times the set building doesn’t work, or something falls over, etc.
I don’t know…he makes it sound too smooth.
I rolled my eyes a few times, rightly or wrongly.
Maybe he’s just a really placid, at peace guy. I’ve been trying to watch YouTube videos of interviews with Dan to get a better grasp of him as a person and photographer, to see if that shines a light on the pacing of this book.
The other thing that struck me as odd is that the book kinds of ends abruptly. You’re reading, reading, reading (it’s a thick book at 696 pages) then it just kinds of…ends. No good bye, hope you liked this, good luck!
It just ends.
It’s not a technical Joe McNally-type book – nothing about what camera he’s using, lighting, etc. It’s about how Dan tries to connect to the people he shoots and how he tries to brings concepts to life. That’s something I’m trying to work on as I shoot more portraits, so it was good to read about this.
Overall, it’s a good read. I’m glad I purchased it, and it’ll be one that I delve back into from time to time (though, I don’t think I’ll consult it much as do Danny Clinch’s book for inspiration, but who knows.)
Has anyone else out there read this book? I’d be interested in your thoughts on it. I don’t know that it’s a must-have…but definitely one to check to see if your local library has it to check out.
The quote on the back cover is interesting too. I think the take-away is: Have a camera with you and shoot. Can’t make the masterpiece without the tool in your hand.
But we all knew that anyway, right? In that respect, we’re all on the road to seeing.
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