Visual Poetry by Chris Orwig Book Review

Clint Eastwood, Yvon Chouinard, J.R.Tolkien, Hemmingway, Picasso, Steinbeck, Henri Cartier-Bresson and many more people than I can recall.

What do these people have in common? They were all quoted in Chris Orwig’s book Visual Poetry. (amazon) In fact, when I fist started reading this book, I was amazed at all the great quotes that came up in the first couple of chapters. For example: “You can do brickwork as a laborer or as an artisan.” Anne Lamott, and “All children are artists. The problem is to remain one when you grow up.” Picasso.

So, I started to write them down (as you can tell). I wrote down more than a dozen as I started combing the pages looking for quotes. Then I realized that I wasn’t paying attention to what he was saying, but was just collecting quotes. Ok, lets leave that for another pass then.

I then really tried to absorb what was being taught in this book. I don’t know if it was because I was reading before I went to bed late at night, or between calls of “Daddy, daddy, daddy, look at me!”, but I had a hard time.

The book was starting to feel “over my head”, which I found really frustrating. I know tons about my camera and how to use it. I know rules of composition and what f-stop and lens to use when, but what Chris was saying was just not getting absorbed. It was starting to get hard to read. Many people loved this book, so I couldn’t give up on it. I had to finish it.

Three quarters of the way through, something connected when he started to talk about shooting portraits, then kids, then weddings. Maybe this was because of what I am shooting right now. I looked back through the previous chapters, and they didn’t seem all that different, so what had clicked? Was I starting to get it? Not quite yet.

What was getting to me at the beginning, was that Chris is a poet. He writes beautifully, takes great pictures, and I sometimes get lost in his words. I have trouble identifying with the artist in me, where he considers himself an artist who happens to use a camera to express his creativity.

Creativity is a scary word to me. I can understand technical things. I know what every button and dial on my camera does. I even read the camera manual. I can skim those things and absorb the material, but art, creativity and vision are works in progress.

I am starting to understand vision, thanks to David duChemin (book reference). At least partly. I am starting to get a handle on what I want a picture to look like before I take it. But then again, it is a lot of the technical aspects that I see in my head.

This idea of creativity flowing through me, generating ideas, and generating art. Bah. That isn’t me. Maybe this book just wasn’t for me. Maybe it is just one of those things that I put up on the shelf and move on. Maybe I’ll eBay it when I am finished. But I had to finish.

I had just finished the Found Objects chapter toward the end of the book, and was flipping back through the book. I was looking for something that I can’t remember now. I saw a section at the back of a chapter with exercises to do, and a flickr group to post to. Then I saw it for another chapter. Guess I skipped those. I looked at some of the suggestions, or assignments. Man, some of those are tough. 10 of them? “Good grief, how would I do that?”

Bam! It hit me like a Nikor 200-400mm lens dropped by Joe McNally from an airplane above me (not that he would do that). This book was a textbook on generating or finding my creativity. How did I miss that? I was being lazy! I was skipping over the most important part of each chapter. As I looked over the exercises that were suggested, I was getting even more ideas, and getting frightened/excited about how I would accomplish some of them.

I have now finished the book, but I haven’t really started. I am not sure what I was looking for when I started this book. Did I want to know how to “see” poetry? If I did, I wasn’t ready to see how much work it would take to get to the next level.

I started to then realize how the book/chapters were structured. There is much more here than use this f-stop and lens. That is not the reason to read this book. Each chapter talks about new ways of seeing. The photographer profiles are about people who see different, who see creatively. The exercises at the back are about learning to see differently. Learning how to see children, flowers, and even road signs, is what this book can teach you.

Some poeple are born with more talents than others. Some people have to put in more effort to get intouch with some aspects of our inner selves, such as our creativity. This is me, but for the first time I think I have found a textbook to get me going in the right direction. This is not a required course. I don’t have credits or loans sitting behind me to prod me to complete the course work. I just have a goal of creating more creative images that connect with the person viewing them.

Who’s with me. Care to go to creative school?

One thought on “Visual Poetry by Chris Orwig Book Review

  1. Just came across this review and it’s great. 🙂 Thanks for re-inspiring me to pick up the book and give it another read!

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