Quick Book Review: “New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography” by Grant Scott

The role of photography in the world today has gotten tougher to assess, given that everybody has a camera with them at all times.  The author argues that photography should be reassessed, and be thought of as a visual “language”.  To do this, we need to discard the pre-conceived notion that successful photography is defined by a single successful image or “good photograph”.  Instead, the author emphasizes the importance of narrative and storytelling in creating a successful body of photographic work.  The author covers a lot of controversial topics, such as whether a smartphone is really a camera, and who is actually entitled to call themselves a photographer.  There is a lot of discussion in the photographic world about whether the democratization of photography through the ubiquity of cell phones is a good thing or a bad thing, and this is a central theme of this book.  I was really intrigued by the ideas presented in the book, and I really wanted to like the book, but ultimately, I found it a bit tedious.  I’m sure the author is a great teacher, and I assume he’s a very good photographer, but the writing is really bad, and the editing is horrible.  Lots of typographical errors, commas where they shouldn’t be, a lack of commas where they should be, and many awkward run-on sentences that leave you totally bewildered.  Points that can be made in one or two paragraphs end up taking pages and pages to explain.  It’s not an easy, fun read.  I appreciate the author’s openness to new ideas.  He’s not a snob when it comes to analog vs digital, thankfully.  I just wish the book was better written. 

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