The Empirical Photographer

I received an email the other day from a reader – complaining that on this site’s home page is found the claim that the site is "non-commercial", yet that I use it to tout my portfolios, workshops, andThe Video Journal. Also, and what seemed to stick in this reader’s craw more than anything else, was thatMike Johnston, who has now written more than 100 gratis essays for this site over the past few years, has the chutzpah to promote his newly published books as part of his recent articles.

Clearly the difference between making a living though ones writings and ones artvssellingother people’s wareswas lost on this particular individual. But the irony was not lost on me that I had received that e-mail coincident with having just finished reading Mike’s first book,The Empirical Photographer. If only that complainer understood what value Mike Johnston provides the photographic community his nitpicking would have been placed in its proper context.

The Empirical Photographer

This isn’t a book review. My skills as a writer aren’t up to the task. And after reading Mike’s book I feel even less able to express myself eloquently than usual. The reason for this is that Mike is to my mind one of less than a half dozen writers about photography whose words are regularly worth reading, let alone of a quality which will likely have a lasting effect on the art and craft of photography.

For those that are curious, the others whom I have in mind areBrooks Jensen, the publisher ofLenswork, and the criticsBill Jay, andA.D. Coleman. While the pages of photographic magazines and web sites are filled with endless equipment review and tutorials, few other than this elite group actually write intelligently and lucidly about photography itself. And none, other than Mike J., do so on a regular basispro bono– as he does on this site.

WhileMike’s web articlesdo tend to be mostly about the craft of photography and its tools, inThe Empirical Photographerhe has collected his more serious and penetrating published writings of the past two decades.

As I started off by saying – this isn’t a book review, because to critique Mike’s book is beyond my meager writing skills. But, if you value clear, insightful and provocative essays about the subject of our collective passion, with not a word included about cameras, lenses, or the issue of film vs digital, then this book will reward you handsomely.