I already have one book by Freeman Patterson: Photography and the art of seeing. I enjoyed reading it so when I came across this one for sale (used) for a very reasonable price I decided to get it. Where my initial purchase focused very much on developing photographic vision this one focuses more on elements of design. It’s based on actual workshops conducted by Mr. Freeman who attempts to create a workshop in a book – not always successfully I felt. You just can’t create the feel of a workshop: the interaction with the faciliators; the interaction between the participants; the social aspects etc. in a linear print presentation.
The first sections explain the basic building blocks of visual design and how to put them together into a coherent whole. They were somewhat interesting, but I’d read similar material before and so didn’t find a lot that was new.
I enjoyed the third section on “Evaluating your Photographs”, which was really Mr. Freeman trying to explain how to do this by evaluating some of his own photographs. I didn’t always agree with the points he was trying to make.
The next section is on “Assignments”. Once again it’s Mr. Freeman discussing some assignments that he had set for himself in the following areas: people; natural things; human constructions and manufacturer things. It’s really about the importance of setting yourself assignments and not just randomly shooting.
The final (very short) section is about “Making an Album”. This, too, is carried over from Mr. Freeman’s workshops. It seems that on the final afternoon of each workshop the participants show their ten favorite photographs. Here it seems to be just another opportunity for Mr. Freeman to present some of his photographs – in this case eight rather than the ten the workshop would demand.
As with the earlier book I learned a few things; picked up a few ideas and enjoyed some of his anecdotes. However, I’m not sure that I learned enough to justify the purchase. Had I paid full price I would probably have been disappointed.
I also discovered that I don’t actually like his photographs all that much. They’re competent enough, but they don’t really engage me much emotionally. I don’t feel the desire to look at them over and over again the way I would with a Weston; a Strand; a Cartier-Bresson etc. I felt that I could, and have, made photographs similar to many of his. Maybe that’s the point: follow my advice and almost anyone, even you, can make pictures of a certain quality. That may be true, but for me at least I want to get past this point and make pictures that say something; that people want to look at. And I’m finding it extremely difficult to do so. I’m not sure that this book helps me much.