Philippe Gross's The Tao of photography: seeing beyond seeing

Philippe Gross's The Tao of photography: seeing beyond seeing

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In Philippe Gross's book "The Tao of photography: seeing beyond seeing" Gross emphasizes, through his photography and other more well known photographers works, the Taoist philosophy and wisdom. I found this books message not only creative ,but both inspirational and instructional. He couples photographic works with informational text to help more deeply understand his philosophy. Gross emphasizes creativity and heightened awareness rather than formal techniques. Straying away from formal techniques is something that I feel I have been trying to do when I take pictures. This photo book has helped me understand new ways of approaching the camera. Upon opening the book in the store I was instantly drawn into the photos. The ones that I liked the most were the works that had an obvious theme of light ,but more so they all had a wonderfully beautiful feel to them, a feel that I want my photographs to have. An clear theme of light is what I try to incorporate in my photos. A streak of light in a dark room or a soft window light detailing a bed sheet are the little nuances that make great photographs. Simplistic forms and details created by light are things like I like to see and pay attention to when I look at photographs. After reading the book and understanding the Taoist approach to taking photographs I not only appreciated the photographs much more , it made me want to take better photographs.
The photograph Light ray by Philippe Gross has a simple bean of light seemingly peeking through a door crack. The simple light ray is so sharp and so alluring. The pointed light is coming from the right corner and leading into the left. The direction of the light drew my eyes into the photograph. The light is so bright and the room is so dark it provides a great and interesting contrast. This one beam lights up the dark corner of the cement block wall providing a light gleam of light separate from the main ray.

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This picture really inspires me. Light is beautiful. I can't really explain how great photographs effect me ,but it draws me in a spits me back out an inspired photographer. That feeling is something I really want to convey in my photographs. Fredrick Frank the author of "The Zen of seeing", says that "The inexpressible is the only thing that is worthwhile expressing."# I couldn't agree with this quote more.
My most favorite photograph in the whole book has to be a picture by Ernst Haas entitled Egyptian Boys. It has similar qualities of the Light ray photograph, but it conveys a difference in feeling. The light beams are also sharp and distinct. But being that this picture has people in it it raises more questions. When you throw people in a photograph you always want to know their story. Where are they? Where are they going? Why are they sleeping? The light streaks add a beautiful illuminating quality to the picture. The light floats over the boys creating an absolutely beautiful piece of art.
Ansel Adams's photograph entitled Aspens shows a forest of birch trees. Adams takes an ordinary forest and captures the glow of the birches perfectly. The light shines so brightly and so beautifully it emphasizes all the nuances of the forest. Adams catches the trees at a moment when them seem to glow like angels. The trees exude this long white elegance. If I squint the picture reminds me of looking at hair through a microscope. The bright white lines and the dark background make the trees pop. I am amazed at this photograph. It is very impressive how he is able to catch the light at the perfect moment and make such a gorgeous composition. All of Ansel's work impresses me. But this one in particular caught my eye because of the way the light falls on the trees.
Another photograph that I liked a great deal was one by René Burri called Three Men Check Out Two Women Walking. Again another photograph where light plays a big roll in the composition of the picture. The light crosses each other adding so much movement to the photograph. If that light was taken out of the photo it would seem very boring to me. I believe that this is true for all of the photographs that I am discussing. Its so simple but yet so complex. The photo does also contain a little bit of humor. Three men checking out the ladies makes me smile, but that humor is not the first thing I saw when I looked at the photograph. It actually was the last thing. It this case the people's actions don't play that big of a role in my eyes. It is the shadows that their bodies cast that make the picture for me. The balance of shadow to light beams is exquisite. There are all different kinds of beams. Some light rays are fat and add texture, while others are skinny and sharp. For some reason it reminds me of a Willem DeKooning painting.
They mixture of rays add a wonderful abstract quality to the photo, reminiscent of his paintings.
Philippe Gross has another photograph in the book that I was attracted to. It was entitled Shadows. I liked this photo a lot because it reminded me of a picture I had taken at a modern dance recital. It was just of the legs of the dancers. The light cast a beautiful shadow on the stage as it also does in Gross's photograph. I love the playfulness and mysteriousness of the photograph. The shadows draw me in but the abrupt end of the bodies adds that mysteriousness that I love so much about this photo. As you already know I love photographing light. You cannot have shadows without the light which is why I also enjoy the shadows. The light is wonderful in this photograph. The sun shining down from above lights up the ground, bringing out the great texture in the tile and the waves in the road. I love the contrast of this photo and the overall ambiguity that this photo exudes so perfectly.
This book contained photographs that moved me, excited me and made me think. When a photo can raise questions you know it is something special. I think that this book did an excellent job of printing photographs that did just that"…The Tao of Photography illuminates path beyond the noise of constricted awareness that raises life to a rewarding adventure and photography to an art."
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