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Larry Fink on Composition and Improvisation: The Photography Workshop Series Paperback – May 31, 2014
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As a reading experience, the books feel more like monographs with expansive captions than generic how-to guides. – Eye Magazine
If his energy on the page is anything to go by, a workshop encounter with Larry Fink must be like grabbing a power cable firing out sparks. – Eye Magazine
About the Author
Larry Fink has been a professor at Yale University School of Art; Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture; Parsons the New School for Design; and Tyler School of Art, Temple University. Currently, he is a tenured professor of photography at Bard College. His work has been widely exhibited in the United States, including solo exhibitions at Light Gallery, New York; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
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This book is a series of brilliant riffs, with many of Larry’s greatest pictures, on the nature of the photographic process. It is not a how to do it, A to Z, soup to nuts manual on taking pictures. If you read it closely however, you might find yourself entering Larry’s world of the miraculous possibilities inherent in photography. In reading Larry’s words, and looking at his pictures, I’m reminded of Grace Slick’s advice from the Jefferson Airplane, “…you gotta let go, you gotta let go, you gotta let go…”
The key to the kind of picture making advocated by Larry comes on page 30, where he says that the story in a good photograph unfolds as a question. If the photograph gives you all the answers, it becomes stagnant. Much of photojournalism is designed to give the viewer answers. These kinds of pictures misunderstand the difference between photographs and words. Photography is a language of symbols, of space organized in a specific moment in time, and, as such, is inherently ambiguous. Their very nature is to rebel against specific readings. Larry’s work accentuates this tendency in photographs. His work does not manipulate you to have a specific response, they challenge and free you to create your own meaning.
Larry Fink’s photography will not make you feel comfortable. It will not answer many of your questions. But if you’re open to what he is saying, in his words and pictures, some doors in your mind might open. That is his gift to us all in this remarkable book.
Yes, it is not a step-by-step "how-to" as some reviewers have pointed out. But as Larry would argue, that is not what photography is about. He is teaching a much deeper process.
If you go through the photographs and study what Larry says about his process, you'll learn a lot about what makes a photo engaging--understanding a subject, patience, empathy, and a bit of humor. His language won't satisfy everyone and, yes, he's eccentric. That's what makes this book so fun to read and the advice so crucial (it applies to more than photography if you pay close enough attention).
I'll close with this:
If you're a commercial photographer looking to snap 6,000 photos and you need advice on lighting and composition, than this is not your book. However, if you're deeply interested in photography as an art form and looking for advice on how to capture meaningful content, you couldn't find a better mentor.