Arthur Morris, Peter Watson and Sally Mann: Capturing the Essence of the Natural World in 3 Stunning Photography Books
Digital photography, like most art forms, is a personal journey, which others are only able to share peripherally with the photographer. The closest the aspiring photographer or lover of great photographic art can be to experiencing the passion and creative process of the truly great image-makers is to study their exhibits or books. In the field of photography of the natural world, selected books from 3 famed photographers should be high on the list of every photographer’s library.
No one is more renowned and celebrated for his bird photography than Arthur Morris. Not only does he understand his subject matter thoroughly to capture them at their most revealing moments, but also composes their details and behaviors with that rare combination of an artistic and technical eye.
Morris is not a disinterested recorder of bird life. He is equally committed to its protection, as a WildBird advisory board member and a contributing editor with Nature Photographer and a contributing photographer with Bird Watcher’s Digest. The BG/BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition has selected 5 of his bird photos to receive prizes. Canon has also chosen him as one of its Explorers of Light.
Arthur Morris specifically wrote his book, Art of Bird Photography: The Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques, for the amateur who wants both the right equipment and the right techniques to experience the excitement and enjoyment of photographing birds. Morris is also careful to share his philosophy about preserving bird habitats and how to become as invisible as possible, both to photograph birds in their natural state and to protect them from the stress of human intrusion. His book is also an excellent practical guide about where to photograph birds in North America and what species live or migrate there.
Peter Watson is best known for his stunning landscapes of the British Isles. His passion for photographing the natural world began as a child. He was always accompanied with his camera and was attracted to landscapes partially as an escape from the modern development of the land into the suburban sprawl. In an interview on his Web site, he explains how he used the Delamere Forest in Cheshire as a classroom, honing his landscape skills and learning how to shoot with a large-format camera. That learning experience and many others have caused an evolution of his images from busy compositions to a minimalist’s approach.
Watson’s first book, Light in the Landscape, is a chronicle of the period of time in his life when he photographed many British, Scottish and Welsh landscapes. He purposely included images that show the islands of his home throughout the seasons, emphasizing how the changing light becomes a unique calendar of the passage of time, and its return. Not only are Watson’s photographs a joy to view, but also each is a learning tool for the aspiring landscape photographer. He provides a complete explanation of both his approach to each image and the techniques he applied.
Sally Mann shares some similarities with Peter Watson, in that she is equally dedicated to preserving images of her home world, the American South. Since attracting great notice at her first solo exhibition during 1977, she has focused her camera on the private lives of individuals, including her husband and children, as well as finding new ways to reveal the timeless and haunting landscapes of Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia and her native Virginia.
Her dedication to her expressive photography, which has often generated controversy, has resulted in a Guggenheim fellowship and Time magazine’s recognition of her as “America’s Best Photographer” during 2001. Two documentary films have showcased her life and work. Blood Ties (1994) received an Academy Award nomination.
Her book, Deep South, remains true to her love of black-and-white photography and an 8x10 bellows camera. Mann has also revitalized the look of early photographic processes by creating images for this book with the wet plate collodion method. She has consciously evoked the look of 19th century photos by allowing flaws and defects to occur that are reminiscent of light leaks and scratches on negatives that represent the difficulty of early landscape photography.
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Photograph © Peter Watson