Eudora Welty. Photographs.

Eudora Welty. Photographs. University Press of Mississippi, 1989.

This book helped me define my relationship with photography. Firstly, it proves (as if that was really needed) that one can be really creative in more than one field. In Welty’s case, these fields include photography, journalism and literature. She succeded in all. Secondly, it proves once again that good photography has essentially little to do with technicalities. I will return to this later.

The book contains an introduction written by Reynolds Price (a keen supporter of her) as well as an interview with Welty by the publisher’s staff. Both are informative and contributory.

Watching photographs of Welty makes me feel relaxed. I do not remember any image that was shocking or hopelessly tragic. What amazes me most is the lack of even a trace of pretension. No thriving for a message, no forced addition of grossly symbolic elements. Just plain photographs by a mature person with sensitive eyes and an open mind. Many of the photographs are from 1930’s and her attention was mostly focused on American South with an emphasis on blacks and the rural life. The photograph that made it to the cover of the book is an excellent summary of what she has achieved.

Returning to technicalities, there are occasional photographs in the book that are not sharp, that are poorly focused or even seemingly poorly composed / processed / printed. And I like them all! I like what Ms. Eudora Welty, the self confident writer-photographer, shows me kindly: The technics is just peripheral to the real thing, which has always been the soul. Thanks for the lesson.

 

 

 

The Practice of Contemplative Photography. Andy Karr, Michael Wood.

The Practice of Contemplative Photography. Seeing The World With Fresh Eyes. Andy Karr, Michael Wood. Shambala, 2011.

 

This book is NOT for everyone and that is a good thing! Would you like to be like everyone?
Seriously, the book is for beginners with a certain mind set. Those trying to learn about technicalities, those who love to take innumerable selfies and those who like to “show” their images more than anything else will be very, very bored reading it. On the other hand, others who love to meditate upon small things, who appreciate noticing a feather sailing smoothly on still water may value this book immensely.
You do not have to know the Zen Buddhist (or, Daoist for that matter) terminology to understand the text. You may just need an open mind to do the exercises which are nicely described in detail. The book also offers many images as examples of “Contemplative Photography”.
I do not consider myself a beginner. Still, it did help me in understanding myself and my approach to photography. I have read it twice, from cover to cover. I recommend this book to like minded photographers.
The below are two of my images one can associate with contemplative photography.

The Fall

 

The Blue Boat

Yaşamın Aynası : Fotoğraf. Mehmet Ünal.

Yaşamın Aynası : Fotoğraf. Mehmet Ünal. Espas Yayınları, 2012.

 

Uzun süre Almanya’da çalışan Mehmet Ünal özellikle röportaj fotoğrafçılığına yoğunlaşmış bir sanatçı. Fotoröportaja ağırlık verilen bu kitapta Ünal, fotoğrafın kısa bir tarihçesini toplumcu bakış açısıyla aktarıyor. Bazıları tam sayfayı kaplayan -birkaçı kendisine ait- çok sayıda fotoğraf bulunan kitap keyifle okunuyor. Özellikle fotoğrafa yeni başlayan,  fotoröportaja ve sokak fotoğrafçılığına heves edenler için yararlı olabilir…

Halusinasyonlar. Oliver Sacks.

Halusinasyonlar. Oliver Sacks. Çeviren : Deniz Koç. Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2015.

Seksenlerinde olan Dr. Oliver Sacks’ın son kitaplarından biri. Öncekilerden birini (Karısını Şapka Sanan Adam, Mars’ta Bir Antropolog, Müzikofili, Aklın Gözü) okudunuz ve hoşlandınızsa bunu da okumaktan keyif alacağınıza eminim. Sacks, sinirbilim uzmanı olan bir tıp doktoru. Sinirbilim ile ilgili konuları, gerçek hasta öykülerine dayanarak sokaktaki adamın rahatlıkla okuyabileceği biçimde yazabilmek gibi bir becerisi var.
Bu kitabın öncekilerden temel farkı, halusinasyon (sanrı) görmeye odaklanmış olması. Kitabı okumayacak olanların bile akıllarında yer etmesi gereken en önemli bilgi, gerçekte olmayan bir şeyi algılıyor olmanın (görüntü, ses, koku…) o kişide ağır bir akıl sağlığı sorunu olduğu anlamına gelmediği. Aksine, halusinasyonların çoğu akıl sağlığı ile ilgili sorunu olmayan insanlarda görünüyor. Bence yalnızca bunu kavramak için bile kitabı okumak isteyebilirsiniz.
Kitabın; paranormal fenomenler ve inançlarla ilgili düşüncelerinizi sarsabilecek kısımları olduğunu da söylemeliyim. Sacks, dini inançların kökenine, tarihine ilişkin şaşırtıcı ve önemli bilgiler sağlarken bunların okuru nerelere götürebileceği konusuna hiç girmemekle iyi ediyor. Çünkü maksadı arı kovanına çomak sokmak değil, işini yapmak…

The Silence of Animals. John Gray.

The Silence of Animals. On Progress and Other Modern Myths. John Gray. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.

Gray

 

Another John Gray book which reads like a thriller!

He is -as always- provocative and he generalizes easily and jumps to strong conclusions from his observations shared by other writers. He happens to be the author of books that receive most markings by my pencil!

The book contains 3 chapters each composed of about 10 article-length sections. Sections usually start with a (sometimes lengthy) quote and Gray builds his arguments from there. This structural design helps him focus more easily and it can also make the unwary an easy prey for his line of thought. Yet, I am not complaining.

Although John Gray is accused of changing paths (on Liberalism, mostly) this book essentially follows his earlier anti-humanist approach. His stance in Straw Dogs (Saman Köpekler), and in Black Mass (Kara Ayin) has not changed. Here, the attack is focused on the belief in “progress”.  This is just another “myth” according to Gray and it is a most influential one in a negative sense. Strictly speaking, “better times are ahead” is a false claim on personal as well as universal scales. A person believing in this myth misses the life altogether as life is never in the future… Societies living according to this myth are manipulated and likewise, are doomed.

At this stage of my life, I am in the midst of a radical change in my understanding of myself and of the world.  That is probably why I understand Gray and I totally agree with him. I no longer believe in progress.

Just a few quotes as appetizers for future readers :

– ‘Humanity’ is a fiction composed from billions of individuals for each of whom life is singular and final. (p7)

– The myth of progress casts a glimmer of light of meaning into the lives of those who accept it. (p11)

– To think of humans as freedom-loving, you must be ready to view nearly all of history as a mistake. (p58)

– If belief in human rationality was a scientific theory it would long since have been abandoned. (p72)

– Cognitive dissonance is the normal human condition. (p73)

– Rational or not, life without myth is like life without art or sex – insipid and inhuman. The actuality, with all its horrors, is preferable. (p79)

– Like cheap music, the myth of progress lifts the spirits as it numbs the brain. (p80)

– Unbelief today should begin by questioning not religion but secular faith. A type of atheism that refused to revere humanity would be a genuine advance. (p81)

 

I think I should stop before converting a large part of the book to quotes!

I like Gray. I can follow and digest his arguments as he prefers to serve them. I doubt if this can make any of us more palatable!

Fotoğraf Neden Kusursuz Olmak Zorunda Değildir. Jackie Higgins.

Fotoğraf Neden Kusursuz Olmak Zorunda Değildir. Açıklamalı Modern Fotoğraf. Jackie Higgins. Çeviren : Firdevs Candil Çulcu. Hayalperest Yayınevi, 2014.

 

Modern sözcüğü burada güncel / günümüzde anlamında kullanlmış; postmodernin öncülü anlamında değil…

Sokaktaki adamın anladığı biçimde fotoğrafla değil, genel olarak görsel sanatlarla ilgili olanlara yönelik bir kitap. Sıradışı bir fotoğrafın çok tutarlı bir kompozisyon, olağanüstü ayrıntılı ve konuyu destekleyen bir aydınlatma, üst düzey fotoğraf donanımı, kusursuz pozlama, ileri derecede beceri gerektiren çekim sonrası işlemler ile gerçekleştirildiğini düşünüyorsanız, okuyacaklarınız sizi şaşırtacak!

Portrelerden manzaralara 6 ayrı bölümde ele alınan güncel sanat fotoğrafları, sanatçı ve kullandığı yöntem hakkında kısa çerçeveler halinde bilgilerin de yer aldığı bir biçemde sunulmuş. Tümüyle renkli fotoğraflarla dolu… Kitabın temel işlevi daha fazlasını öğrenmek için merak uyandırmak ve güncel görsel sanat akımları hakkında yüzeysel de olarak bilgilenerek bu sanat ürünlerinden daha fazla tad alabilmeyi sağlamak diyebilirim. Fotoğraf makinası kullanmadan çekilen fotoğraflar, çekimi haftalar sürebilen fotoğraflar, çamura düşmüş ve üstünden arabalar geçmiş gibi duran fotoğraflar bekliyor okuru!

Kağıt seçiminden tasarımına, baskı kalitesine kadar kutlanması gereken bir ürün olduğunu da söylemeliyim. Baskısı Çin’de yapılmasa, fiyatı daha da yüksek olurdu sanırım…

Understanding A Photograph. John Berger.

Understanding A Photograph. John Berger. Edited and Introduced by Geoff Dyer. Penguin Books, 2013.

Understanding_A_Photograph

Thanks to Geoff Dyer who, once again, opened my eyes to what are behind and beyond the photographs. This little volume of articles written between 1967 – 2007 by John Berger are a must for those trying to really understand what is photography about and what (if anything) can be achieved by its practice. Judging from the number of lines I had underlined with my pencil, the book deserves to be read again soon.

I will just add a few quotes to increase potential readers’ appetite! :

The speed with which the possible uses of photography were seized upon is surely an indication of photography’s profound, central applicability to industrial capitalism. (p.49)

Yet, unlike memory, photographs do not in themselves preserve meaning. (p.52)

All photographs are of the past, yet in them an instant of the past is arrested so that, unlike a lived past, it can never lead to the present. (p.62)

Certainty may be instantaneous; doubt requires duration; meaning is born of the two. (p64).

With just a little bit of exaggeration, I can claim that every sentence in this book deserves to be quoted!

John Berger is an exceptionally good writer. This shows most strikingly in his “Between Here and Then” (p. 184-189) which is only tangentially on photography. It is a about a house, a family, a life and a clock! I read this article as a complete story three times within the same day. So tasteful! The final quote is from this one :

Your concern is not with the moment, but with the past and future. And you ask a strange question : what happens if (or when) the past and future stop? Does this change the now, and if so, how?

Will be my bedside book.