This is about books and other stuff worth reading when not shooting

How Real Is Real?

How Real Is Real?, Paul Watzlawick, Vintage (January 12, 1977)
Wie wirklich ist die Wirklichkeit?, Piper (Februar 2005)

Photography is not mentioned in this book. But every photographer should read it.

It is a brilliant foray into human perception and vividly as well as amusingly presents the inconsistencies of our invented reality. Paul Watzlawick was an Austrian philosopher and psychologist who taught psychiatry at Stanford University, California, from 1967 on. He died in 2007, at 85.

As a scientist in communication theory and as a follower of radical constructivism he distinguished between reality and actuality. Reality (Realität) is not very interesting as it is not accessible to us. Actuality (our invented reality, Wirklichkeit) is relevant but only insofar as it may be analysed for consistency or benefit. What we perceive as reality is constructed by ourselves and this construction depends on personal, cultural and biological factors. Thus, the same thing, abstract or physical, may validly be viewed completely differently by different people.

Other voices:

This is a great book for a novice or anyone who wants to better understand the world around them.
This is a must read book for anyone who thinks they have all the answers.
Facinating forays into topics such as, communicating with animals/dolphins, artificial intelligence, psychotherapy, and espionage. One is shown how 'constructed' reality is and hints at how this construction can be changed to improve our everyday lives.

The book told me two things:

Photographers aren't and can never be mere reproducers of "what's there" since there is no objective reality. Not even when making an image of tooth paste. Critics who still deny photographers the same amount of creativity they attribute to, e.g., painters, probably think of "boring" photographs like those commonly found in encyclopedias (scientific images) or thoughtless snapshots. Those images, however, do not represent the reality any more than most "artful" pictures. This also means that there is no correct way of photographing anything. This is good because it gives freedom and it is bad because it gives freedom. It also means that a good photograph is one where it becomes apparent that the photographer was aware of actuality. The image will be popular if it's actuality coincides sufficiently with the one of the viewer.
Tolerance, obviously: "The same thing, abstract or physical, may validly be viewed completely differently by different people". Understanding this made live much easier for me.

There are several more titles by Watzlawick (I got to know him through his "Instruction Manual For America", not available in English, as far as I know). I've read three or four and found them all enjoyable.

Have a look / order the book here and thus support kiss-of-light while still getting the best price (select your country / language):

US: How Real Is Real?
DE: Wie wirklich ist die Wirklichkeit?
UK: How Real Is Real?
FR: La réalité de la réalité
CA: How Real Is Real?

John Daido Loori

My next books will be "The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life" and "Making Love with Light: Contemplating Nature with Words and Photographs" by the American Zen master and photographer John Daido Loori.

(C) 2006 - All rights reserved

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