Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters’ Guide to Shooting from the Heart

Authors: Tracey Clark et al.

Publisher: Focal Press

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

When my daughter was 14, her best friend and she borrowed flutes from her school’s music room, even though neither had ever played the instruments. As they sat trying to learn the fingering and to play a duet, I took a couple of dimly-lit photographs. Thirty years later, those images still hang on my wall, reminding me of that moment of friendship and experiment. Visitors often ask me what the photographs are about. I was reminded of this as I read “Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters’ Guide to Shooting from the Heart”.

The Shutter Sisters are a group of women who operate a photography blog. Ten of the sisters have joined forces to create this book. Each of the sisters writes one chapter on a subject including such genres as Portraiture, Stillness, and Togetherness. Each chapter is illustrated with images taken by the writer and other sisters. There are also excerpts from the Shutter Sisters’ blog and sidebars telling us to “See It!” with shooting data and “Shoot It!” urging us to experiment with a certain type of photograph.

Basically the book is a collection of random tips and motivational words about the importance of photographing from the heart. The pictures vary in quality from highly interesting to bland family snapshots. There is little of a technical nature in the book, and there is little that tells how to apply technique to one’s vision, other than reminders that technique can help the photographer to capture what is in his or her heart. Occasionally, one of the authors will go on for a page about the difficulties of being a homemaker, or the anxiety and joy of being a mother. While I acknowledge the validity of these sentiments, the authors often failed to make the connection with creating a good photograph. Instead most of the text emphasizes the importance of following our emotions in photography, a sentiment with which I whole-heartedly agree, but I also recognize that it is through the application of technique that the photographer transforms a vision created by, among other things, emotions, into an artful photograph. I often got the feeling that the pictures were more successful in preserving memories for the photographer, than in revealing what was in the photographer’s heart to the viewer.

I have no doubt that there will be an audience of people with cameras with whom these sentiments will resonate. For an old geezer like me, who continues searching for ways to make expressive photographs, the book seemed much more about the importance of emotions than creating images that will speak to viewers.

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