Take Your Photography to the Next Level: From Inspiration to Image

About a year ago I started to publish a series of articles byGeorge BarrtitledTaking Your Photography To The Next Level. This series was very popular with visitors to this site, and subsequently attracted the attention of a book publisher. George expended the original three articles andthe resulting bookis now available from major book sellers.

Prior to publication George andRocky Nookasked me write a forward for the book, and it is reproduced below.

There doesn’t seem much point in saying anything more, since what I wrote last summer says it all. This is an important book for anyone who wishes to move their photography forward from the hobbyist level, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

Introduction To The Book

There is a story that Pablo Picasso is reported to have once commented that photography isn’t an art, because anyone with a camera can take a photograph. With all due respect to Mr. Picasso, that’s like saying that anyone that owns a piano is a pianist.

Photography is an art form that relies heavily on equipment for its actualization, maybe more so than any other. This turns out to be both a blessing and a curse. Certainly today’s auto-everything digital wonder-cameras do indeed allow almost anyone to take a well-exposed, properly focused image. But whether than photograph has any artistic merit beyond being simply a record of what was in front of the camera at the moment the shutter was pressed, is totally reliant on the person that pressed the shutter.

That is what lies at the core of Take Your Photography to The Next Level. Not the equipment, (though the right equipment for the task is an important ingredient), and not necessarily any pre or post-exposure techniques used, though these too are important. Rather it is that almost ephemeral connection between art and craft that defines the level at which one practices photography.

Practice is indeed the right word, because as with any art or craft it is practice which informs excellence. There is a story that the virtuoso violinist Jascha Heifitz, still performing publicly in his 80’s, was visited in his hotel room during a tour. When the reporter entered the room he found Heifitz practicing, and asked why after a half century as one of the world’s greatest performers on that instrument he still needed to practice. Heifitz’s reply was telling. He said that if he didn’t practice almost every day it was unlikely that anyone in the audience would notice. But, after a few days of not practicing, he, Heifitz, would hear the difference. That is the dedication to art and craft that leads to greatness.

I met George Barr when he attended one of my field workshops. During the print review session it was immediately clear that George’s work stood apart from that of his contemporaries. There was a depth of visual perceptivity that goes beyond experience and practice, but is found only when a photographer has thought long and heard about their work and its goals.

After a half century pursuing his art, a couple of years ago George started writing a series of articles for The Luminous Landscape web site. These proved to be among the most inspirational essays to appear on my site, and have received wide praise. Now, this new book takes the germ of that series and expands them into a comprehensive guide for photographers who wish to grow as creative artists though a better understanding of their art as well as their craft.

Michael H. Reichmann

January, 2008