The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman

This article is part of my series on the study of ‘The Photographer’s Eye’ by Micheal Freeman.

On my recent trip to the west coast, I read a book I found in Barnes & Noble. The title caught my eye, but the content as I flipped it made me purchase the book. The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman is a special photography book.

The topic of the book is how to visualize and create art through the medium of photography. The organization of the book is far better than many as each topic is on average a two-page spread. There are a few that are longer, but most are self-contained and can be read when you have time. Furthermore, the organization of the topics is sequential to learning the craft of visualization.

Before I go any further, let me tell you that I will begin writing articles here on various topics covered in Michael’s book using an essay form. The point of these articles will be to analyze some of what Michael says, but then to provide an exercise that you can perform to further your ability in this area. Think of these as the supplement to the course. The Photographer’s Eye will be your lectures, and I will provide the homework! I plan to post examples of some of the exercises as I also use them.

Now, a few more items about this book. Michael’s organization of the topics starts with a definition of the basic framework we will deal with in the remainder of the text. That framework revolves around, well, the frame. Using a term from film photography, Michael uses the concept of the boundary of an image and it’s various sizes and orientations to begin. He moves to some basic design concepts like contrasts and textures. Then he moves to elements in the image like broad brushstrokes in a watercolor painting. He finishes with some sections on composition, intent of the image and process.

I don’t want to cover the entire text here but rather through the essays. Of course while it won’t be necessary to buy the book, I do recommend it for anyone interested in photography be it taking the images or viewing other’s images. It’s amazing to begin to SEE photographically. I think great photographer’s have an eye to compose images naturally and over the years I have acquired an eye for certain subjects in nature. However, after reading this text I am discovering new ways to view subjects.

I’m sure this newfound enlightenment has also been a product of visiting the Seattle Art Museum last week where they had a special impressionism exhibit. Even so, whatever the medium for art, and I have chosen film and photography, art must be furthered by new views. The same old picture of the same old subject is not art, it is practice by copying others.

Copying is good and in fact, that is how the impressionists created their genre. They copied the master’s of their day, which were mainly the Renaissance ‘realists’. Then as they perfected making copies of previous great works, they started introducing their own concept of light. Their paintings became brighter and a little less detailed. They were fresh and new. I was amazed at the progression of impressionism to the art form it ultimately ended up as. Photography is very similar. In my case, for nature photography, Ansel Adams is my master to copy. Over time I have to introduce my own style and capture of light. There is no doubt that a thorough study of Michael Freeman’s book will enhance my ability to accomplish this.

Stay tuned. I will use the category Visualization to tag these essays and put a link on the side bar for you.

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