Review of Dan Winters' book | The Road To Seeing
Normally photographers get engulfed in reading famous photography books early on in their careers, for me I’m starting at 39 years old and quite late in mine. I’m not talking about “how to” books but rather books by famous photographers featuring their work. I’ve always followed a handful of notorious photographers but I typically stick to my background in photojournalism. I’m drawn to Magnum, VII, and other famous photographers in the conflict, documentary, and photojournalism genres. I decided I needed to expand my horizon and explore more works by photographers in landscape, portraiture, and fashion so I decide to start collecting and reading more.
This recent obsession with collecting and reading all started with a resolution to detox from social media and binge on reading and educating myself daily. I’ve been burying my head in my kindle and in photography books like a mad man and I’ve been loving life and learning a lot and allowing my mind to be inspired again.
During a recent two week shoot in Osaka, Japan my nights were free so I explored as many local bookstores as I could in search of some books for my collection. Every book store was filled with books in Japanese, which makes sense, I was in Japan, but not much on the photography front. On my second week there, I found a gigantic book store surrounding a Starbucks, so there was a glimmer of hope of some international books resting somewhere for me to purchase.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a full section of obscure and classic photography books such as; Avedon, Penn, Arbus, Magnum, New York Times Magazine, etc. The store was a treasure chest of amazing collections.
I spent 3 consecutive nights there thumbing through books (luckily my client didn’t catch me there as I would’ve looked like I was learning on the spot) and on my last day I made several purchases, one of them being a thick book by Dan Winters titled “Road to Seeing.”
I knew his name although I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t think I knew much about his work but as I thumbed through his book I was familiar with many of his stunning images and I was like “oh yeah, that guy.” Winters has shot for just about everyone most famously for Vanity Fair, Wired, New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, and the list goes on and on.
Winters is maybe best known for his striking and creatively unique studio portrait work of celebrities in his intricate hand-built sets. However, he truly is a jack of all trades shooting street, journalism, space shuttle launches, bees, building sets himself, doing design work, the man does it all and he does it all at the highest level.
His book is quite unique in that in addition to featuring his gorgeous images he leads each chapter with insightful stories about the images and how they came to fruition. He’s an extremely intelligent and thoughtful photographer and writer. All his images stand alone and need no explanation, which is a compliment to his craft, but his text is equally pleasant because he’s not explaining his images but rather his thought process leading up to the shoot and about his collaborations with his “sitters” and his editors. As a fellow photographer, it was mesmerizing to hear read about his celebrated career arc and he does so in a, rare for photographers, humble approach.
The book is not a technical one, so don’t expect to learn his settings, dark room tricks, and lighting set up, but I totally okay with that, I love the mystery to it.
A nice bonus the book offers is Winter’s deep appreciation for the history of photography and he showcases that through text and pictures which I found quite educational and it awoke some sleeping college year ignorance in me.
I highly recommend this book for beginners, pros and really for anyone with any interest at all in photography. It’s smart, insightful, educational and the type of book you will read more than once and want to share with your photography friends.
If I had to describe how I felt after I finished this book in two words and I have no idea why anyone ask me to do that but I didn’t have a better segway so just listen to me. I would say jealous and inspired. Jealous of his talent, intelligence, and of deep understanding of our craft. Jealously is a good thing when harnessed correctly, and not just because of the Gin Blossoms, jealously can lead to inspiration and I closed this book I opened up to being inspired.
You can buy "The Road To Seeing" on Amazon here.
Check out Dan Winter's full portfolio here.
Author Justin Mott
Since arriving in Vietnam over a decade ago, Justin Mott has established himself as one of the best-known and well respected photographers in Southeast Asia. He has shot over 100 assignments for the New York Times while a collection of his work in Vietnam has been featured on the BBC. Additional major editorial clients include TIME, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and The Guardian among many others. His boutique visual production studio Mott Visuals specializes in premium commercial photography and video production. Mott is also familiar to TV viewers as host and resident judge of History Channel’s hit photography reality series Photo Face-Off now entering their 4th Season. You can view his editorial website at http://www.justinmott.com