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Perception and Imaging: Photography--A Way of Seeing [Paperback]

Richard D. Zakia
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

July 9 2007
How do you experience a photograph? What do you want a viewer to feel when they look at your image?

Perception and Imaging explains how we see and what we don't see. Relevant psychological principles will help you predict your viewer's emotional reaction to your photographic images, giving you more power, control, and tools for communicating your desired message. Knowing how our minds work helps photographers, graphic designers, videographers, animators, and visual communicators both create and critique sophisticated works of visual art. Benefit from this insight in your work.

Topics covered in this book: gestalt grouping, memory and association, space, time, color, contours, illusion and ambiguity, morphics, personality, subliminals, critiquing photographs, and rhetoric.

·Provocative color images demonstrate the power of visual perception
·Photographs by Bresson, Bruce Davidson, Nathan Lyons, Lisette Model, Barbara Morgan, Man Ray, August Sander, Pete Turner, and Edward Weston
·Paintings by Degas, Escher, Hockney, Holbein, Kandinsky, Magritte and Warhol
·Hundreds of inspirational quotes from famous photographers, painters, and writers

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Review

Perception and Imaging needs to be read and studied by every photographer and digital imager interested in seeing. You want to learn how to see? Buy this book!-Camera Arts

Perception and Imaging is a great teaching resource... That addresses both the mind & the eye! Congratulations... I love all of the quotes... I think I have read them all and I plan to use some in my next lecture!
-Jerry N. Uelsmann

I can't get over your book. It is fascinating and it is incredible the amount of material and concepts you have brought together, not to mention images of all sorts. and your use of quotes is remarkable. -Peter Bunnell, Princeton University


"This is a thorough and challenging book on the phychological aspects of photography."
-Canadian Camera (Feb. 2008)

About the Author

Richard Zakia is a 1956 graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Some of his classmates at the time were Carl Chiarenza, Peter Bunnell, Bruce Davidson, Ken Josephson, Pete Turner and Jerry Uelsmann. Minor White was a member of the faculty and Beaumont Newhall was Adjunct. It was a great and enriching mix. After graduation he was employed as a photographic engineer in the Color Technology Division of Eastman Kodak. During the Sputnik era he decided teaching was his vocation and accepted a position with RIT where he served for 34 years. For a time he was Director of Instructional Research and Development and Chair of the Fine Art Photography Department and graduate program in Imaging Arts. He is a recipient of the Eisenhart Outstanding Teaching Award. Zakia has authored and co-authored thirteen books on photography and perception. He is also the co-editor with Dr. Leslie Stroebel of the third edition (1993) of The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography and a contributor to the fourth edition (2007). His most recent book is Teaching Photography with Dr. Glen Rand.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book Sept. 16 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you're at all interested in photography go and buy this book now. I learned an enormous amount about both the pragmatic craft of photography and the theory which sits behind it by reading this clearly explained, wonderfully illustrated book.

A very good way to spend your money.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book about photography and perception from a teacher/practitioner. July 7 2007
By Tom Brody - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is not specifically directed to photography. The book is an elementary book on the psychology of perception and vision. The book is suitable for a college freshman or sophomore art class. The chapter titles are:

1. SELECTION.
2. GESTALT GROUPING.
3. MEMORY AND ASSOCIATION.
4. SPACE, TIME, AND COLOR.
5. CONTOURS.
6. ILLUSION AND AMBIGUITY.
7. THE MORPHICS.
8. PERSONALITY.
9. SUBLIMINALS.
10. CRITIQUING PHOTOGRAPHS.
11. RHETORIC.

APPENDIX A. ADDITIONAL CONCEPTS.
APPENDIX B. ANSWERS TO SELECTED EXERCISES.
APPENDIX C. ADS FROM THE PAST.

Essentially every page contains a figure. There are plenty of color figures. Many or most of the figures are quarter page figures or half page figures. The quality of the color figures is excellent. Only a handful of photographs in the book are from famous photographers. There is one picture by Dorthea Lange, illustrating a girl with balloons, her image centered between certain round objects on the wall behind her, a photo by William H. Jackson, showing repeated sandstone shapes, a photo by Edward Weston illustrating the technique of grouping, a picture by Henri Cartier-Bresson depicting symbolic association, a photo by the author (R.D. Zakia) showing biomorphic shapes (shapes in nature that resemble human forms), a photo by Man Ray, showing similarity between a woman's back and a violin, and several others.

One wonders why most of the examples in the book are from graphics, oil painting, advertising, or from generic photographs. The year is now 2007, and there should be no shortage of photographs created by famous photographers, e.g., Dorthea Lange, Joel Sternfeld, Marion Post Wolcott, Martin Parr, etc., for use in teaching all the lessons shown in this book. The book might also be criticized for its occasional very elementary approach, for example, in its very brief commentary about Adobe Photoshop.

Overall, the depth of the writing is geared to the beginning college student. However, it is likely that even older adults will find something new, for example, in the disclosure of the Ostwald System, the Pantone Color Formula Guide, the CIE system of color, the "Cornsweet effect," and optical illusions classified as, e.g., "ebbinghous," "jastrow," and "delboeuf." Just for the record, it might be noted that page 63 has a diagram of a "poiuyt," an optical illusion that appeared on the cover of Mad Magazine in March 1965.

This gives examples of two amazing things disclosed by the book. An optical illusion comprised of hybrids of two photographs, changes depending on your viewing distance. Page 161 of Zakia's book shows this kind of illusion, where the hybrid is of a calm face and an angry face. Depending on the viewing distance, the face is either calm or angry. This illusion was so amazing that it made me cry out in surprise. Another illusion is a photograph of a woman posing in front of a tall blade of grass--a narrow leaf of some sort. Due to the shading in the cleft of the leaf, the illusion is that the woman has a crack or crevice in her face that splits her face in two(page 179).

If I lost my copy of the book, I would not buy another. The book simply cannot be characterized as being "about" photography. For a book that is really "about" photography, I recommend Why People Photograph by Robert Adams and Light Readings by A.D. Coleman.

The author, Richard D. Zakia, is Professor Emeritus at Rochester Institute of Technology. He has taught in many areas of photography including graphic design and multimedia design. During his 34 years at RIT, Dr. Zakia served as the chair of the Fine Art Photography Department and Graduate Program in Imaging Arts, and for a six-year period was a photographic engineer in development and research at Kodak. He is the recipient of the Eisenhart Outstanding Teaching Award and the author/co-author of 12 books on photography.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What you wanted to know about perception but were afraid to ask July 30 2007
By Irving Pobboravsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
My reaction to Richard Zakia's 3rd edition of his Perception and Imaging book was two-fold. It was at the same time an intriguing visual delight and a classic in the field of visual perception. The majority of the 410 pages have black and white or color images illustrating a wide range of perceptual concepts that are clearly described in the text.

I'm an ardent photographer fascinated by images. So much so that when I open a New Yorker magazine I first look at the cartoons and then the photographs. If the photographs that accompany an article are sufficiently intriguing or powerful I cannot help but read the article. I did the same with Zakia's book on perception. When it first came I flipped through it looking at the images. If I was puzzled by an image or if it posed a question in my mind I read the accompanying text. This happened time and time again. I found some images totally surprising. For example I couldn't understand why an ad was included showing a wine bottle in a bottle-shaped wicker basket. To find out why it was included I read the text and when I looked at the ad again I realized there was no bottle there! Only a bottle label and a bottle cap. Because of the visual clues I saw a bottle when there was no bottle there. The ad was included to illustrate the concept of closure.

The above sneaky example made me to realize that if I wasn't careful I might learn something. I commend this book to others interested in visual perception with the caveat that if they aren't sufficiently careful they also will learn something. And they will be delighted.
37 of 47 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately, little more than a collection of specific but disconnected information Dec 17 2007
By Andrea B - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I know that I will draw a great deal of critique for this review, but personally i did not find this book worth my time.

For how well it might be written, for how easy and understandable the examples might be, for how precisely documented it is, it does not have what I was looking for in it: a partly theoretical and partly practical toolbox to expand my creativity when I create an image.

The text is, as I said in the title, little more than a collection of well-catalogued, wide-ranging information regarding different fields of perception. Some of them are overly and uselessly technical, some are little more than tautologies, few are actually useful or stimulating. I could not find any reference, for instance, to "the rule of the thirds" (which might not be the ultimate principle of composition but is still an important starting point) but on the other hand there were more than a dozen paragraphs on colour notations and names, constantly moving between the obvious, the superfluous and the merely technical.

On a sidenote, I do not understand why American writers in general assume that their readers have the attention-span of a goldfish and try to fit everything they have to say on an argument in half a paragraph, only to start a completely new one immediately after. It doesn't help, it creates unacceptable over-simplifications.
Teaching is not made of putting on the table individual information, sweetened by a profusion of quotes and aphorisms. Teaching is a sequential activity, it involves a long propaedeutic phase, it entails the creation of foundations and builds upon them to get in the end to the real content. A book that teaches well cannot be accessed randomly at any page without missing any context. Useless to say, this one can.

Andrea B., Verona
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book Helps Us to "See the Shot" Nov. 12 2007
By CMOS - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While it is true this book is somewhat erroneously subtitled WRT to the Photography bit -it is relevant not only to photographers but also painters, illustrators and others- there is a wealth of information presented in a detailed and well-illustrated manner. This book covers everything from color relationships and meaning, to "geometric" fundamentals such as symmetry and gestalt grouping, to the human physiology behind why some things appeal to our eye and others do not.

In short the book provides not only examples of what works in photographic composition (or a painting's composition), but explains *why* it works, without boring you to tears with a doctoral thesis in every chapter. Some books (such as Itten's color tome) do exactly this and it makes them almost painful works to finish, even though the information is valid. It provides just enough scientific context to give understanding, and then gets out of its own way by providing real-world illustrative examples (be they photos, drawings or illustration) to demonstrate the current concept.

And there *are* many references to things specific to photography such as a sub-section on color management systems and how color is controlled in the digital world. Is it the same as reading one of Bruce Fraser's works on color manegment? No, but it gives you enough to put it in context and understand why it's important. So it is with all the other chapters in the book. Highly recommended if you are an art student or photography student, or even a professional looking to hone your skills.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An invaluable book for no-art-background photographers Feb. 18 2010
By X. Xu - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
To start, I recommend this book to all novice-intermediate photographers who need to know what to photograph and why, like myself. It's an invaluable book that will affect my photographs for the rest of my life. Here are my reasons.

First, however, I must make it clear that, while the content of the book is highly relevant to photography, it isn't necessarily a photography book. To me the book is beyond photography. The book showed me photography as a branch of the broader form of art - visual art, which has existed thousands of years earlier than photograph - and all the knowledge and concepts that our ancestors have developed and derived are applicable to the imaging process of photography. It was really an eye-opener for me, a humble software engineer.

Pretty much all the concepts in the books are new to me, yet I grasped them pretty well without encountering any circular references. That's another powerful part of this book. The author has been a prof for several decades and the concepts were explained with the most primitive words and examples, yet the concepts are not. The book covers and references ideas from photographers, painters, philosophers, and even psychiatrists. This really illustrated how photographs, and in a broader sense, visual images, can be understood and analyzed from many different perspectives and levels. At the lowest level you can explain visual effects with psychological theories, and at a higher level you can express your philosophies with cunningly designed images. Other concepts and theories are somewhere in the middle.

Oddly enough, I think this book doesn't guarantee good photographs, but gives you a good set of tools and techniques to teach yourself and eventually get there. Some people commented they want to see rule of 1/3 and such but disappointed they couldn't find them in the book. I want to argue that rule of 1/3 is really a rule of thumb, an approximation, a simplified principle that is easy to follow for amateurs - very soon you need to break it, and this book can tell you when and how, because it deals with perception and imaging at a much lower level without explicitly mentioning it. You should be able to construct higher level concepts from lower level ones, that's the true power of this book.

Moreover, thanks to its generic approach to the visual perception and imaging, I think the concepts are applicable to all disciplines that use a visual display as the medium. In my case, it's the graphical user interface design. GUI designs are essentially compositions of smaller visual elements, and how the whole picture is perceived follows the same rules as other visual arts. The figure-ground relationships that highlight critical information, the colors that make key things pop and affect user's emotions, and the layouts that form and break gestalt groupings of certain elements, all contribute to a good GUI design. In fact, I've encountered, in several other GUI design specific books, the same concepts as ones discussed in this book which served as validations of the applicability of these theories in other disciplines.

I think this books deserves more publicity and acknowledgment among photographers. I am recommending this book to all my friends who own DSLR and who I think are pursuing photography as a form of fine art.
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