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Photographing the Female Form with Digital Infrared Paperback – July 15, 2014
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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My one complaint? Klein's style is generally monotone, almost exclusively a soft, low-contrast black-and-white with a few mild false-color images thrown in on occasion. There's a sameness throughout, which, while not necessarily bad, is limiting the full potential of infrared. There are no deep (~830nm) high-contrast black-and-whites here, nor are there any dramatic, channel-swapped false-color images. That narrows the appeal some, but is not a deal-breaker.
Overall, Klein's book is a solid work, but one that will appeal to a mostly niche audience.
I, admittedly, expected a number of images that were more-or-less accidently good enough to construct a printed book. I expected more teaching text than exists due to the book’s promotion with phrases like “Compose more powerful images”, “Smooth or enhance textures” and others. Naturally, I expected to be taught photography within the digital infrared arena. I was wrong on both accounts – Klein’s images are by no means accidently good and this is not a technical book on digital infrared photography. But this is a case where my incorrect expectations were a good thing.
Klein did something I’ve never seen before in photography books (and I buy many), let alone in photography education. Absent are long text dialogs of every detail of how to do this or that. Absent are lectures on technical subjects that pull the reader away from the subject images and into some word-fantasy that “you can do this too”. Absent are gear and software reviews, post-processing techniques and the other stuff that, ironically, can easily detract from the point of photography. Yet, without all of the supportive “text teaching” in Klein’s book, I learned a great deal about digital infrared and photography in general. The learning came from viewing Klein’s images, supported with just enough text to give context to her choice of composition and her artistic intention for the images. This, in my opinion, is a brilliant way to construct a photography book because less text leaves more time to study the subject image. At least in my case, that gave me the leeway to teach myself through image observation. Imagine that – a book that actually honors its images with just enough supportive text to launch self-learning by giving some context to the image yet not stealing the reader away from the image. Indeed, had Klein’s images been any more explained than they were, her readers would have been robbed of self-discovering the meaning and mystery of her images.
There is much more to this book than digital infrared. So much more that I suspect that the term digital infrared in the title was a publishing ploy that capitalizes on the lack of current books that address digital infrared photography. But that seems to be window dressing, because it’s clear that Klein has moved well beyond any infatuation with digital infrared and has attained the coveted place of utilizing it for its artistic power, not because of its technical mystery or even its challenge. I needed that lesson, because it’s easy to delve deep into the technical which can have the negative effect of forgetting (or never attaining) digital infrared’s artistic and creative use. To illustrate her mature attitude about digital Infrared, Klein occasionally mentions in passing the photographic effects of infrared, such as water bodies tending to be black. And when such attributes are mentioned, it is only in the context of her artistic intention for the image. This, for me, was powerful learning because Klein’s book invits me to put aside my appetite for the technical and actually look at images to learn from them, not just about them.
Klein manages to visually convey concepts such as innocence, ephemeral and tension to name just a few, using female models in settings that support her photographic intention. I greatly enjoyed storylines such as “Gifts from the Goddess”, “Vortex” and “The Door”, to mention only a few. I can only hope for such story-telling skill as I progress in my own photography. What an adventure this book is! All of the author’s images invite the viewer into them because they always have a story to convey, yet leave much room for the viewer’s imagination. Klein’s skillful use of infrared aids her story-telling because infrared changes the appearance of visually common elements that are too easily taken for granted. Yet the use of infrared is risky due to its technical challenges and risk of creating a visually misunderstood image. However, I believe that Klein understands what she is doing fully and deeply on the creative, artistic and even technical levels, making this an excellent photography book on several fronts.
Prior to purchasing “Photographing the Female Form with Digital Infrared” I had two photography books that I would not part with for anything. Now I have three.
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