Picked this up from a fellow photographer at a photography event one evening and, were it not for the fact that I need to get up at 5am for work, would have finished it in one sitting such is the power of DuChemin’s writing on photography. As it was, I finished it the next evening.
Whether you’re a professional or only use the camera on your phone, The Soul of the Camera is worth a read. For one thing, it’s beautifully illustrated with his own photographs and this guy can take them, he certainly can. In fact, I’d say it was worth having for the images alone. All black and white in this edition, the book itself is a beautiful thing.
But in between each pair of photographs are a few pages of DuChemin’s captivating and extremely thought-provoking prose. His website describes him as a “humanitarian” and I take that to mean that he aims to capture what it is to be human in his work, particularly to convey the themes that are shared between us all.
This at once gives his photography and his prose a relevance that only a cynic would ignore. There’s something about any art which succeeds at displaying the human condition sympathetically that makes it important not just for those who are skilled in creating or appreciating that art form. Photography, like all art forms, can often be accused of being art for art’s sake. There’s no way anyone would level that at the kind of photography DuChemin both exemplifies and urges us toward.
In an age where everyone carries a camera, it’s never been more important that we hear voices like DuChemin’s. He argues… no that’s the wrong word… he encourages us to think before we shoot whatever situation we’re in. He takes us on a journey through the typical photography curriculum and considers composition, location, lighting, etc. all while bearing in mind his object: tell the story of humanity.
As a technically accomplished photographer, I really have a lot to learn about this side of things. I need to hear what he’s saying and go beyond simply good photographs to strive, as he does, for the exceptional storytelling that photography can be. I just wish the book contained more on exactly how to do this. For example, I’d have liked each chapter to end with a couple of practical assignments that would take my skills in the direction of the point he was making. That would have created a much greater legacy than leaving the application to the reader.
For those of us who like to snap away all day on their phones, it’s an encouragement away from banality, to stop and think and be intentional about bringing more meaning to the images we produce. For those of us who do this for a living or at least sell our images to the public, it’s a reminder that our work can be far more powerful than it might otherwise be. It’s a reminder that we too can make images that heal, convict, restore, uplift, release and generally help us understand each other.
There’s something here for everyone, but if you like to think you know something about photography, this is not only a must read, it’s a must take on board and apply to your photography.