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Showing 1-10 of 25 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 35 reviews
on February 15, 2015
Though it was published earlier, this is the best book I read in 2014. It has flaws - the last third isn't nearly as good as the first two thirds - but Morris' discussion of the authenticity of the famous Crimean War picture, the scope of his intellectual engagement, his detective work, the careful approach he took to his subject is absolutely breathtaking. Consider this a seven star review minus two stars for the last section. Highly recommended.
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on December 17, 2014
This is an interesting read for anyone who enjoys altering photos and the science behind it. It reads a lot like a text book so it's not terribly engaging but it is definitely interesting.
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on December 25, 2012
This is not a book for a tipical or amateur photographer. This is a book por people who care very seriously about photography. This is the kind of book for people who keeps thinking about what photography really is, the importance of photography, the influence of photography, the history of photography, the mass media manipulation using photography. In other words, don't buy this book if you don't care about photography's theory. And if you do, don't miss it!
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on January 12, 2013
While most photographers, myself included, just take what we do for granted, Errol Morris points out the manipulative nature of all photographs. Artists do much the same thing. The very act of "selecting" what to capture in an image and what to leave out is an act of selective vision that we use to inform or impress our viewers. But, since we are not all taking images to be used in a court room in a legal case, or to document a war, that is fine. His observations will make you think more deeply about what you photograph, but certainly won't change my methods or intent.
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on October 13, 2011
This is a well-written work of serious intent. I expect a lot of readers might find it a slog, but the main message is an important one, especially today when we are flooded with images that purport to speak for themselves. My only complaint is that in the analysis of the famous Fenton photographs of the canon balls, the issue of which came first might have been resolved with a little experiment throwing say ball bearings randomly over a scaled-down landscape. The arrangement of canon balls on the raised road surface looks decidedly unlikely. Still, a worthwhile analysis and a good read for anyone interested in documentary photography.
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on September 21, 2016
fascinating deep dive into how we know what we think we know. Very geeky/obsessive, but it grows on you.
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on May 30, 2012
As a photographer, I appreciated Errol Morris' book on several levels. He examines several case studies, specific photographs since the advent of photography which have in some way affected the perception of history; his choices in themselves are intreguing. Morris' style of writing manages to read as both academic and personal, and he takes advantage of all the research options available, both human and otherwise. His central point, that an image can be manipulated by both the artist and the viewing public to become something more, makes you question all of modern media.
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on February 16, 2012
This is almost a philosophy book, really. Morris carefully helps the reader distinguish between: the photograph, that which is depicted by the photograph, that which is not depicted in the photograph, the text surrounding the photograph, the inferences we make from the photograph, and the inferences we make from the text. These are important things to sort out, and to distinguish. He makes, repeatedly and clearly, with forceful arguments as to the importance of the point, this point: We imbue a photograph with too much truth, because it looks real. Skepticism is vital here, since our instincts point in the wrong direction. In this modern era, we mostly know about digital alterations, but we we tend too much to forget the many many other ways that a photograph can mislead us.

It's a good book, and one completely worth owning and reading, if you're at all interested in EITHER photography OR media.

One quibble: In the section on Walker Evans and the missing alarm clock. Curtis is simply wrong. Agee does mention the alarm clock, or to be precise the sound of an alarm clock, and suggests (in that fabulously loopy and ambiguous Agee way) that the clock is set 2 hours fast. It's right there at the end of "The house is left alone" in the chapter "The Gudger House". That Curtis would claim that Agee does not mention the clock suggests that Curtis couldn't be bothered to read the book, but only to dip into the inventory sections. That Morris would repeat the claim suggests, unfortunately, that he couldn't be bothered to read it closely either, although it's clear that he's read large pieces of it. It's a tough book to read, I'll grant you, but I am astonished that a man who would fly to Crimea to check the background for one image would fail this check on another image.

Agee's reference to the clock does not immediately resolve any questions about what it's doing in Evans' photo, at least under my reading, but the fact that his reference goes unmentioned (indeed, denied) is disturbing to me, and makes me worry about the scholarship all around, a little. It probably provides a little more evidence that the clock is Gudger's.

That quibble aside, let me end on a positive note: Morris did some great work here, and has written a really wonderful, accessible, book on an important topic.
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on October 2, 2015
I use this as a text in a college level documentary photography production course. It's a great conversation starter!
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on October 28, 2011
Errol Morris is a documentary cinematographer. In this book, he offers up meditations on truth and still photography. His perspective is unremittingly that of a documentarian -- he has very little interest in aesthetic issues in this volume. They may impinge tangentially, as he considers issues of arranging the objects being photographed, but they are never his focus.

The style of the book reminded me of a Studs Terkel book -- he interviews people who have some relationship to each of a half-dozen photographs that comprise the nominal topics for the book's chapters. The interview approach keeps the material accessible and rather chatty, even when it delves into arcana of image processing or forensic analysis of photographs. AFAICS, there is no main point that the book is trying to put forth. Rather, it is a series of ruminations on the topic of photographs as historical (or news) artifacts.

I thoroughly enjoyed the explorations, in the way that I enjoyed the movie "My Dinner with Andre" -- I would have liked to have been present during the interviews, and reading the book is the next best thing. There are times when I was less than convinced of the correctness of points being made -- for example, the big conclusion of the first photographs examined was that it is the accidental and unimportant aspects of a photograph that are the reliable indicator of truth within it. While there may be some validity to that observation, there was also considerable value in the alternative ideas that were examined along the way.

Morris' expectation that there should be one irrefutable standard for establishing truth in a photograph was what was flawed, not the particlar standards that were put forward. The fact that they all led to the same conclusion was a much more reliable basis for believing that conclusion than any one of them in isolation, including the one he finally settled on.

But the value of ths book is not that it presents unassailable conclusions. Rather, it is in the questions with which it chooses to wrestle. If you have any interest in photo journalism, documentary photography, or history, this book will be an engaging exploration of ways in which photography can enlarge our appreciation of historical events and the ways in which it may be an impediment to that appreciation. It is well worth a read.
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