Review of Seeing Things: A Kid’s Guide to Looking at Photographs, by Joel Meyerowitz

Seeing Things

A Kid’s Guide to Looking at Photographs

by Joel Meyerowitz

Aperture, 2016. 74 pages.
Starred Review

This is a book about photography – and about becoming a better photographer by learning to see as a photographer does.

The bulk of the book is a series of great photographs, chosen by Joel Meyerowitz, who is a photographer himself. They are mostly not images I would have chosen – they aren’t necessarily pretty pictures – but they are consistently images that make you think and wonder, if you stop to take a second look.

On the accompanying page to each photograph there is some text pointing things out, but also asking questions. The author explains why each one is a great photograph and explores why it captures your attention so effectively.

The earliest photo in this book was taken in 1898 and the latest in 2014. There are a wide variety of subjects and styles. The selection alone is provocative and will get you thinking about what you would choose for a collection of outstanding photographs.

Here’s what the author has to say on the opening page:

I chose the photographs in this book with the hope that the things you discover in them will encourage you to open your eyes and your mind so that you can see the world around you in a new way.

These photographs, of people and animals, of landscapes and life on the street, are full of humor, mystery, and surprise and show that any moment of any ordinary day has the potential to activate your mind with a sudden flash of insight.

That moment of seeing is like waking up.

How lucky we are to be living in an age when making a photograph is available to everyone with a smartphone or a camera. The photographs that follow show the kinds of tools that photographers use, like intuition, timing, point of view, a willingness to wait, and the courage to move closer – tactics that make beauty and meaning, otherwise hidden, visible. All of these things are part of how you naturally see, but you have to be aware of them if you’re really going to see.

What you notice will reflect the way the world speaks to you, and only to you.

You may or may not be able to change the world, but the world can certainly change you.

This book calls itself a kid’s guide to looking at photographs, but anyone of any age who takes pictures will learn from considering the ideas in this book.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

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