The Photograph, Composition and Color Design

If you enjoy analysing your photographs this book will appeal to you. Mante is a retired teacher of photographic art living in Schwerte, Germany.  He began his academic career  in 1950 studying the theory of painting. Ten years later he was introduced to the medium of photography and went on to spend most of his life behind the teacher's lectern and the lens. His credentials are impressive.

This is not a picture book, however, and is not a light read. It is intellectual and analytical, a product of both an academic and creative mind.  There is no shortage of illustrative material and diagrams to explain the principles being described. As such it is an excellent and comprehensive textbook. Anyone who is engaged in the challenge of teaching the craft of photography will appreciate the depth and richness of its content and the student of photography will find it a valuable addition to their library. It would certainly provide an excellent framework for the curriculum of a college or university major.

With the emergence of digital photography a new dimension of intuitive and experimental art form has evolved which tends to ignore and break the rules of conventional photography. No longer constrained by the cost of film the average punter is more inclined to work their subject matter from a wide variety of angles and then choose the shots that stand out from the rest. The rules of composition and design play a secondary role to the creative fun, no-holds-barred freedom of digital photography. "If it looks good, it is good."

The Photograph may not hold the attention of the rather time-pressed user of, say, an iPhone who probably has never read the manual, yet alone seen the need of a rule book. However, the real plus of a book like this is that it illustrates the importance of paying attention to what you are actually doing when you take a photograph. The person who is aware of what and how they are photographing will consistently end up with more pleasing images. Creative photography does not have to be hit and miss. Balance, colour, contrast, shape, form, perspective, light and shade, texture, irregularity, lines, blur, and movement are important ingredients of standout images. Mante endeavours to make sense of the complexity as well as the simplicity of the world of potential images. He provides a practical framework and underscores the importance of an essential discipline in imagery.

This book borders on being over-analytical. Regardless, the serious photographer will quickly realise that Mante is a master of his craft in theory as well as practice. There is a huge amount of solid practical advice from someone who knows what he is talking about. Do make allowances for what is lost in translation from German and subtle cultural differences in learning and educational models.

- Gordon Hammond

 

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