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Comment: Condition: As New condition., As new condition dust jacket. Binding: Hardcover. / Edition: First Edition, 1st Printing Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The / Pub. Date: 2011-09-01 Attributes: Book, 336 pp / Illustrations: B&W and Color Photographs Stock#: 2065825 (FBA) * * *This item qualifies for FREE SHIPPING and Amazon Prime programs! * * *
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Believing Is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography Hardcover – September 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; First Edition edition (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594203016
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594203015
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Morris's book is beautifully designed, underscoring that visual evidence has its own texture, its own feel. Like Arbus, Morris knows that photographs gratify some of our deep cravings, but also that they also never fully satisfy. A photograph "partially takes us outside ourselves" and "gives us a glimpse . . . of something real." This is a key part of what Arbus and Morris are both after.
Photography's preservation of traces of the past offers the possibility that "we too can be saved from oblivion by an image that reaches beyond our lives." By paying such close and caring attention to traces of the past, Morris greatly increases the possibility of their living on. He shows us what it means to do the hard work of saving memories from oblivion."
(-Michael Roth, The Washington Post)

Review

"Morris brings an insatiable and contagious curiosity throughout to the convolutions that arise between art and truth telling."
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"...Morris's book feels less like traditional photography criticism than like the novels of W. G. Sebald, which are similarly obsessed with truth, memory and war. We get odd, absorbing pictures of Mayan ruins, of Picasso and his mistress, of the high heels worn by Morris's tour guide in Crimea: shanks, shoes, a shadow (presumably the photographer's) falling across the once boot-trodden road. Like extra problem sets in a textbook, these photos offer us additional opportunities to practice the art of looking, while simultaneously multiplying the scale of, as Morris's subtitle puts it, 'the mysteries of photography.'"
-New York Times Book Review

"Believing Is Seeing is an important book: It reminds us, at a time when it is remarkably easy to manipulate images and we are daily inundated with more and more of them, to ask: 'What, after all, are we looking at?'"
-Wall Street Journal

"[A]n elegantly conceived and ingeniously constructed work of cultural psycho-anthropology wrapped around a warning about the dangers of drawing inferences about the motives of photographers based on the split-second snapshots of life that they present to us. It's also a cautionary lesson for navigating a world in which, more and more, we fashion our notions of truth from the flickering apparitions dancing before our eyes."
-Los Angeles Times

"Delightfully conversational..."
-Boston Globe

"...simultaneously bewildering and thrilling, like finding a fathomless secret world hidden behind the seeming simplicity of everyday life."
-Salon

"Morris' assiduous and profound inquiry into the relationship between reality and photography is eye-opening, mind-expanding, and essential in this age of ubiquitous digital images."
-Booklist (starred review)

"Students of photography-and fans of CSI-will find this a provocative, memorable book..."
-Kirkus Reviews

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More About the Author

Roger Ebert has said, "After twenty years of reviewing films, I haven't found another filmmaker who intrigues me more...Errol Morris is like a magician, and as great a filmmaker as Hitchcock or Fellini."

Morris' films have won many awards, including an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, an Emmy, the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival, the Silver Bear at Berlin International Film Festival, the Golden Horse at the Taiwan International Film Festival and the Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America. His documentaries have repeatedly appeared on many ten best lists and have been honored by the National Society of Film Critics and the National Board of Review. His work was the subject of a full retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1999.

Morris has received five fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2007, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a graduate student at Princeton University and the University of California-Berkeley.

Customer Reviews

Morris is the kind of observant skeptic that good photographs deserve.
E. Dwyer
I highly recommend this book, esp for anyone interested in photography, journalism, and psychology.
bittermelon
You will never look at a photograph in the same way after reading this book.
Seoigheach

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Conrad J. Obregon TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
A common question among serious photographers is "what is the truth of a photograph?" Errol Morris, an Academy Award winning documentary film maker, approaches the question in this book.

He does it by examining specific images in six essays, that deal with two similar photographs taken in the Crimean War; the well known photographs of prisoners and GI's at Abu Ghraib prison; several photographs taken by the photographers of the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression; an image of a child's toy in war-torn Lebanon; and a photograph of children found in the hand of a dead soldier at Gettysburg. His method is similar in all cases; he researches the background of the images and reports apparently verbatim interviews that he had with various people involved with the photographs.

His handling of the Crimean war images is a paradigm of his method. The late public intellectual Susan Sontag attacked a photographer of that conflict who had taken two images of a road, one with canon balls in a gully, and the same view with the canon balls on a road. Morris faults Sontag for accusing the photographer of setting up the latter image, and recounts his own efforts to learn which picture was taken first. After interviewing many experts with no success Morris made a trip to the Crimea and determined that the photographer was facing north. With this information in hand, a forensic scientist was able to determine which photograph was the later.

The author raises many questions, including how and why the difference, and dances around the question of whether the second photograph should be considered a fake. Morris never really answers the question.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca L. Tushnet on September 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Morris makes documentaries, and this is definitely a book written by a documentarian, which is not entirely a criticism. There are a lot of transcripts of long exchanges between him and people he calls up to talk to about various photos (which is actually not how he does his documentaries, where you almost never hear his side of the interview). The most interesting chapters of the book are about Abu Ghraib photos--what does it mean to misidentify the famous hooded man, as the NYT did? Given that the man they misidentified was also imprisoned, was also tortured, why focus on whether the picture was of him? What about the photos of US military personnel smiling and giving thumbs-up signs in front of humiliated prisoners? When we see a social smile, we think it indicates pleasure even when it instead represents discomfort with nowhere to go. Morris has a lot of important stuff to say about framing, reality, and how we shape the meaning of images; he also has a lot of stuff to say about how he figured out which of two pictures of a battlefield was taken first, where a less obsessive person would have given you the answer and the reasoning without telling you all about all the unsuccessful attempts to figure it out in other ways.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Daphine on April 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who has ever looked at a photograph and experienced some kind of emotion will appreciate Believing is Seeing: Observations on the Mystery of Photography by Errol Morris.

In six essays Morris explores the concept of truth in photography and discusses the relationship of photographs to the real world. A photograph can reveal or a photograph can obscure. A photographer decides what will be seen, and someone looking at a photograph will develop impressions based on their own life experiences. So many factors are involved. What is real? What is art? Some photographs are used for medical diagnosis, even mental health as I was amazed to learn in Face of Madness: Hugh W. Diamond and the Origin of Psychiatric Photography.

As an Academy Award winning documentarian, Morriw knows a thing or two about capturing moments. His book is part photography book, part detective story as he investigates the elements that go into creating a picture. The most impressive of these investigations is, of course, his dissection of two nearly identical photos of the Valley of the Shadow of Death - in one the road is covered in cannonballs, in the other the cannonballs can be seen only to the side of the road. What does this mean? A debate arises as to which image is the true image and whether one is more realistic to the subject than the other.

Believing is Seeing really gets you thinking about the way we look at photos. It is almost an art unto itself. Through his signature style, Morris encourages readers to meditate on the subject. If you love striking photographs or books that offer a unique philosophy, this is a must read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bix B-Roll on October 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the most addictive, fascinating collection of essays I've ever read... Errol Morris makes deceptively simple observations about the nature of photography, and then allows those observations to take him (and us) deeper down the philosophical rabbit hole than we could possibly expect. His obsessive, driven sleuthing occasionally creates a strange kind of riveting suspense, making this book easily the equal of his greatest, most entertaining film work. Get it!
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