Given this website's interest in news photography, when I was presented with an opportunity to review a fantastic new book by documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, I literally jumped at the opportunity.
Morris' thesis in Believing is Seeing seems simple enough on the surface—Another treatise on photography and its impact on our lives. And yet, it's so much more than that. An exploration of the connection between image and reality, Believing is Seeing becomes a fantastic journey of intrigues and mystery.
The book starts with our author assuming his role as the inquisitive documentarian, going out of his way to discover his subjects' footsteps, to tread in their paths. To do so, the reader listens intently as he arranges a trip to the Crimean Sea in order to find the Valley of the Shadow of Death made famous by one of the first photojournalists in the world back in 1855, Roger Fenton. Errol Morris walks us through his efforts to find the famed valley, and see if he can solve the mystery surrounding the nearly-identical—but quite different—photographs taken by Fenton.
His journey definitely does not end in Sebastopol, though. Morris also takes us through similar journeys with other images that we are all intimately familiar with—The hooded prisoner of Abu Ghraib, the migrant mother of the Great Depression. All woven into intriguing journeys behind the lens of the photographer's camera.
Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Morris' treatment of The Passion of the Toys, one of the events that literally led to the creation of Snapped Shot. Morris looked at the long series of wire photographs of Mickey Mouse in the streets of Beirut with the same skeptical eye that I did, but took things one step further and actually sat down to speak with AP photojournalist and wire editor Ben Curtis to talk about the background behind the images. This chapter literally had me sitting on the edge of my chair, and if you haven't read these interviews before, I highly recommend buying the book for this reason alone.
In sum, Believing is Seeing has proven to be one of the most interesting books on photojournalism that I have ever read. It's available on Amazon right now, so whether you're truly curious about the circumstances and situations that shape our views of what we see in photographs, or you're looking for an interesting conversation piece for your coffee table, I can't recommend this book enough.
I'd like to close by thanking Mr. Morris and Trish Collins of TLC Book Tours for this exhilarating read! (Snapped Shot has not received any compensation, financial or otherwise, for the publication of this book review.)