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The Nature of Photographs: A Primer Paperback – September 22, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Review

'this book has the power to transform the way you view, and understand, photographic prints forever.' Black & White Photography 'intelligently written and beautifully composed ... insightful ...' Digital Photographer 'a lucid, perceptive and thought-provoking book' Exit 'The Nature of Photographs is stuffed with gorgeous prints, from classic images to contemporary pieces' Boston Phoenix 'A beautiful art photography book that will be the last textbook you need on the subject.' Tokion

About the Author

At the age of 17, Stephen Shore (b.1947) was a regular at Andy Warhol's Factory. By the age of 23 he became the first living photographer to have a one-man show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. An unrivalled pioneer in his field, his work has been exhibited in numerous museums worldwide and influenced generations of photographers. In 1982 he was appointed Director of the Photography Program at Bard College, New York where he is now the Susan Weber Soros Professor in the Arts.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Phaidon Press; 2nd edition (September 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714859044
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714859040
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 0.7 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #299,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Conrad J. Obregon VINE VOICE on December 1, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are a few books about photography that are so fundamental that every serious photographer should read them. These include books that discuss the underlying assumptions of photography that many photographers just take for granted. "The Nature of Photographs: a Primer" by Stephen Shore is such a book.

The book is deceptively simple. Shore sets out to describe "the physical and formal attributes of a photographic print" (although, it seemed to me, the work applied equally to an image on a monitor) "that form the tools a photographer uses to define and interpret...content." For example he suggests that at the depictive level there are four separate ways the camera transforms the world into a photograph: flatness, frame, time and focus. Each of the discussion points is supported by great images from photographic history, taken by photographers as diverse as Timothy O'Sullivan and Paul Caponigro.

The text is short, capable of being read in less than an hour. However a useful reading requires a lingering over the photographs presented. For example, in commenting upon a picture of a clear-cut hillside, Shore says that photographer Robert Adams could frame a picture so that a railroad track appearing in a corner could enhance the meaning of the image. When I first glanced at the picture, I looked for an obvious railroad right-of-way, but closer examination showed a single railroad track just appearing in the bottom corner. One might have thought it was unavoidably included, a mere accident. But realizing that Adams was not so casual gave a whole new level of meaning to the photograph.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Robin Benson on September 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
I've always loved Stephen Shore's work ever since I bought his 'Uncommon Places' book in 1983. It has two of my favorite Shore images: La Brea Avenue & Beverley Boulevard and El Paso Street, El Paso (both taken in 1975) this last one is in 'The Nature of Photography'. A photographer is perhaps the ideal person to tell others about the fundamentals of looking at photos and my appreciation of Shore's work was enough to make me buy this hardback in 2008.

It certainly has some quite stunning photos, especially where they relate to specific text and many thought provoking points come across but I was left with the impression that there should have been more or a different way to explain what there is. The book's photos are a key element in how to understand what is going on and I would have preferred to have seen others that didn't work as obviously as the ones that do. Shore, like any creative photographer, must have taken many images that he doesn't think work as well as the final choice. Seeing some lesser alternatives to the ones in the book would have improved it no end by explaining why photo A reveals a fundamental point beautifully but photo B doesn't. I thought too many visual concepts were put across more by words than images.

Shore says that he used Szarkowski's The Photographer's Eye when he started teaching and his book carries on the theme. Overall I still prefer Szarkowski's book, there are far more photos included and the presentation is much more user friendly than the hard edge Phaidon design, with its excessive amounts of empty page space and trendy use of a typewriter font for every bit of text.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M on February 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book was my first semester text book. When I read it, I found it is not only good to person who start learn photography, is also good to person who already have some experience. It isn't talk about technology, just about photographs. It remind people to understand what is the most important thing when you taking photo. I feel when we do same thing over and over, sometime we forget why I do that like this way. And never reflect. I learned and recalled many things from this book. So I give it 5 stars.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 31, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I wanted a book that was more art theory than how-to guide, and this book is definitely that. Unfortunately a lot of it simply is beyond me. I'm sure I will keep coming back to it and hopefully I will get more out of it as time passes.

The format of the book is an image per page and short blurbs giving you something to think about and recognize in the images. Some of it makes sense to me: how framing can make a picture self-contained or suggest a world beyond it, for example; or how depth of field and the plane of focus can create a heirarchy of importance in the picture's contents. Other stuff, like how your ability to perceive your surroundings affects the gestalt of the images you make, is not something I can comprehend. And this is one of the shortcomings of the book for me: sometimes he makes a statement like this and follows it with a few pages of uncaptioned images, but I need him to be telling me what to see in the image that demonstrates his prior statement.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By KURT47 on July 6, 2013
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I was very disappointed by this book. It does little to help the reader understand how Shore seeks, recognizes, and creates a compelling photograph.

The power of Shore's photographs is in their unique content, perspective, and story telling prowess. So I was expecting a book by Shore to delve into that. But there is none of that in this rather shallow book.

Shore is honest about this fairly early, on pg. 12, "The aim of this book then is not to explore photographic content..."

But I was mainly interested in Shore's brilliant choice of 'content' to create his compelling images. I was more interested in how he sees, what he's looking for. But instead the book is much more shallow and obvious. There's a hint of that limitation, on the cover below his name, where he refers to the book as "A Primer".

But even as "A Primer" I think it falls short. Mainly because it's written content is so abbreviated --- basically simple statements without much development. Altho' I understood what he was talking about, that understanding did not come from the content of the book but from being well prepared before reading it.

So, I'd say go look somewhere else. [e.g. consider "The Ongoing Moment" by Geoff Dyer.]
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