Henry Wolf – Visual Thinking

Henry Wolf’s book entitled “Visual Thinking: Methods for Making Images Memorable” is filled to the absolute brim with photos to the point that the pages themselves are almost overwhelming.  Not only does he include his work, but unlike any other artist I’ve reviewed before, he explains what is going on in each and every single photo and sometimes, how he achieved the photo he was hoping to capture.  Some of the photos are not Wolf’s own, but ones from which he either draws inspiration for his own work or ones that aided him in presenting a certain subtopic in photography (ie. perspective, motion, etc).  Many of the photos Wolf chose to put in his book have this way about them that tricked my mind and more often than not I found myself doing a double take trying to make sense in my mind of what my eyes were seeing.  So there are three levels of understanding these photographs, first glance, a closer look and Wolf’s explanation.  For example, upon first thumbing through the book I came across a photo that Wolf took for Money Magazine; the photo showed a martini complete with an olive and two men seemingly sitting inside the glass.  Upon a second look, a better explanation would be that the men are just reflected in the glass and upon reading Wolf’s explanation I came to find that he wanted the viewer to see two men sitting inside a glass at lunch.

As a whole, I enjoyed the photos in the book that were clearly edited, for example there was a closeup of a woman’s face, and placed over the left half is the left half of a clock.  The face is flawless, perfect complexion, bright blue eyes, perfect hairline, subtle makeup; the clock contains Roman numerals and is see-through, leaving only a slight difference by way of color on the left side of the face.  This photo, Wolf explains, is an ad for a type of makeup that claims to slow down the effects of time.  I enjoyed that the element that was edited in did not take away from the photo as a whole.  It’s not that it wasn’t blatantly apparent that the photo was edited, but this photo in particular was one that I could easily take in as a whole, instead of edited versus unedited content, even though the edited content is not something one would usually find on a face.

Another section of Wolf’s book that I enjoyed was the section entitled “Strange Perspective”.  Again, something I can relate to with my own work.  This is an element I rarely use in class but when I’m shooting for my non-school related projects I use angles I didn’t even know were conquerable.  Some of the photos Wolf presents are simple, a shot of a pair of legs from the perspective of the model, others not as much.  For example he included a photo of six members of a dance group all intertwined and looking like two strange headless bodies.  The photo is a straight shot, no angles and the perspective of a simple onlooker, and the “strange perspective” is found only in the positioning of the models.  This is what I find to be so successful with this section.  It’s not just about what’s in the photo and it’s not just about camera angle, but it’s how the two work together to create an image that I enjoy so much.


Book information: Oversize TR 179 W65 1988; Henry Wolf – Visual Thinking.


As always, I am RJ and I really need to get a new tagline…


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