I am at a loss for a quick way to describe Dan Winters’ just-shipped book, Road to Seeing. That’s because it defies nearly any category of photo book I have seen to date.
It’s nearly 700 pages long, and is far and away the deepest journey into the photographic process I have ever read. It includes technique, but in the context of the journey covered in this book technique is almost an afterthought. And appropriately so.
Best way I can put it: Road to Seeing is not so much a book as it is a mentorship.
THE “WHY” PRECEDES THE “HOW.” THIS, I BELIEVE, SHOULD BE THE GOAL OF ALL ART. (pg. 439)
Part of me wants to do the standard run-though of Road to Seeing, to give an idea of its breadth and depth. To talk about the huge number of images it contains—only about half of which were shot by Winters himself.
About how it is a wonderfully detailed manual (a personal journal, even?) of one man’s life path to becoming of on the greatest illustrative portraitists of his generation.
About its significant nod to the history of photography and to so many influential photographers who have come before. About its deep journey into the internal process of photography and creativity and craft. About its deep journey into the internal process of photography and creativity and craft.
But another part of me says to just keep it vague and to not ruin the reader’s experience by mapping out the book before they begin it.
So instead I’ll just say this. The book starts in Winters’ childhood and from there explores the decades of layers and experiences that made him into the person he is today. Like anyone’s path, his has its moments of randomness. But there is also serendipity, conscious decisions and significant risks taken along the way.
The narrative is, for the first portion of the book, mostly chronological. From there, Winters wanders down the occasional side path looking in-depth at assignments or other types of projects. But he always comes back to the core of who he is, and in that forces you to examine your own core beliefs as a photographer.
Or to recognize that maybe you have not yet discovered your own core beliefs and that it is high time you got started doing so. The thing that leaps out at you throughout, is that this is not randomness at all. It is his continually, consciously chosen path as a photographer.
Road to Seeing is not a book you blow through and exit with a new bag of techniques. It is a book you absorb over time. In fact, I wonder even what percentage of young photographers will possess the mental wherewithal to realize exactly what they are holding in their hands.
I’d like to think this book would have significantly altered my path had I read it as a 20-year-old. But I have to wonder. I was having a lot of fun shooting for newspapers at that age, and probably would not have been ready to hear what it has to say. But boy, does it resonate at 48.
It is very possible that people of different ages (and different points along their own paths) will read this as entirely different books. And will go back to it five years later and see it completely differently.
So in that sense I think it is appropriate for a serious college student. Or a 48-year-old student, as the case may be.
About the Author
Dan Winters is a photographer well-known for his celebrity portraiture, photojournalism, and illustrations. He has won numerous awards including the World Press Photo Award, and his work has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, GQ, and Rolling Stone. His previous books include Periodical Photographs, Last Launch, and Dan Winters’s America: Icons and Ingenuity. He splits his time between Austin, Los Angeles, and Savannah.
Product Details :
- Hardcover: 696 pages
- Publisher: New Riders; 1 edition (January 17, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0321886399
- ISBN-13: 978-0321886392
- Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 7.6 x 2.2 inches