Grateful. It's a word that appeared a number of times throughout Dan Winters' Road to Seeing. Dan is a favorite photographer of mine. There are few artists out there who when you see a photo or painting or maybe hear a few bars of their music, it is easily identifiable as that artist's work - even when it is your first exposure to the particular piece. Dan is such an artist. He has a look that comes about from his way of seeing. This book is a little about how that way came to be. As an accomplished artist, he has plenty that he could toot his own horn about. Yet as I read this book I was struck with his humbleness and the fact that he views his "road to seeing" as being made possible through the people and experiences along his way. He hasn't forgotten the journey - he remembers in these pages. And, he is grateful.
While this book approaches 700 pages, it is a concise story of Dan's path to becoming a professional photographer. There are plenty of photos and the chapters are actually fairly brief. If anything, I was wanting for more. The majority of the book covers some of Dan's favorite work, both professional and personal, and the stories behind the images. This is far from a collection of anecdotes. This is more of a glimpse into Dan's thought process. He is an incredibly thoughtful individual in his approach to his work and his consideration of his subjects. He plans things carefully but allows for spontaneity to enter the shoot. He leans toward the analytical without losing creativity. Some of his shoots involve construction of elaborate sets for his subjects. Here is a guy who doesn't just takes pictures, he envisions them and then he makes them a reality. There is a passionate approach to his work. A favorite quote of his from the book: "I make it a habit to approach every picture as though it were my last."
There are some amazing assignments discussed, such as Dan's coverage of the final space shuttle launches. My favorite chapters were some of the more human works. The story of Marvin was a particularly touching piece. Not every project is a complete success and I appreciated that Dan shared bits of his work that were not necessarily well received. His New York actor's portfolio is one body of work that received criticism. The images came from a desire to do something different and present some famous people as perhaps a bit more ordinary that would be normally done in a celebrity editorial. I actually like this collection quite a bit. There are some wonderful images that appear to be special little moments between moments - real, genuine, and unposed.
My copy of the Road to Seeing is signed and inscribed by Dan. I've met him a couple of times at speaking engagements and shared a short walk and elevator ride with him once. He was wonderful to talk with in person, every bit the intelligent, well-worded, humble guy that he comes across as in his writing. I'm grateful that our paths crossed if only for a brief moment or two. The Road to Seeing is survey of the life work of a great photographer with a deep love and passion for the art. It's an inspiring and highly recommended read.