Book Review: 25 Lessons I’ve Learned about (Photography) Life by Lorenzo DomÍnguez

memoir_23784A big part of building a personal blog is having a platform to improve my writing abilities. With that in mind, I had high hopes for 25 Lessons I’ve Learned about (Photography) Life by Lorenzo DomÍnguez as a tool to learn about writing on my favorite subject as I tossed it into my Amazon cart. Upon completing the book, I can safely say that the book did teach me a fair amount about writing on photography. Unfortunately, almost every lesson was an example of what not to do.

I got a nagging feeling that 25 Lessons wasn’t clicking for me early on, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until somewhere around the three-quarter mark. You know those tacky sunset-on-a-beach photos with the faux-inspirational print you see in psychologists’ offices, Christian book stores, and on the Facebook pages of your more optimistic friends? Well, 25 Lessons is essentially those posters in book form. Almost every line feels like it’s begging to become a featured blurb, or a quote on one of the aforementioned posters. Add that to DomÍnguez’s self admitted, perpetual optimism, and you have something that will make anyone without a shelf of Precious Moments figurines motion sick from continual eye-rolling.

What’s worse is that said ocular strain feels like it goes on far longer than it needs to. Even at 123 pages, the book feels padded.  The author repeats himself multiple times over different chapters to the point that about half the lessons just seem like tweaks on previous ones. Entire paragraphs are tangential at best, and nothing feels lost by simply skipping over many of them.  DomÍnguez even peppered the book with various quotes from other figures. Lines from the likes of Gandhi and Jonathan Swift that were tossed in among the text only remind us that others have said everything that DomÍnguez is saying, but better.  

                But, this is a book about photography, so there’s probably a strong visual presence that makes up for the shortcomings of the text, right? Well, no. For being a photographer, DomÍnguez doesn’t seem to grasp the concept of “show, don’t tell.” He goes to no small effort to explain the stories behind the photos he takes and even describe the photos themselves; he never includes those photos with the text to act as an illustration to the narrative. While there are photos, they’re just stuck at the end of chapters to create a break between the various lessons. Even those are relatively small, and placed sideways so that the reader must strain his neck and squint his eyes to make them out.

The thing is, I feel like all of the above sins could be forgiven if any of the advice to be found in 25 Lessons was something truly unique, original, or profound. I understand that DomÍnguez went through a great journey of personal discovery and wanted to share the lessons he learned by sharing the stories of how he learned them.  While that should work in theory, I find it doesn’t work very well in execution. See, he learned from those experiences because he was there to actually experience them. Trying to relay the entirety of the impact of the moment of epiphany along with all that preceded it means that the vast majority of the emotional weight will be lost. This can make people think, but I feel like it can’t replicate the impact of an experience that creates the kind of lesson that one carries for the remainder of his life.

At first, I thought my dislike of this book came from the fact that I am less of an artistic photographer than a photojournalist. As a rule, we journalism types tend to be more cynical and callous than our counterparts who view photography as a strictly artistic venture. While this book would most likely go over better with the illustration crowd, it’s still too poorly executed for me to recommend even to them. Give this one a pass.

Was I too harsh on 25 Lessons? Let me know what you think on the comments below. Also, share a book that you’ve wanted to break down.






50 in 52

I have a secret shame. For so long, the sheer hypocrisy of it has been looming over me, becoming heavier and heavier with each passing day. My conscience will allow it to go on no further!

You see, for as much as I champion the power of books, I am not quite the bibliophile I would hope to be. As the class loads, work loads, and what slivers of social life I could piece together began to pile up, I found myself with less and less time for reading anything that wasn’t required for classes. Even when I was able to find time to read, I was often too exhausted to keep my eyes open long enough to read more than a handful of pages. On the rare occasion I wasn’t fending off sleep, I was often too tense and restless to simply sit and enjoy anything. What little reading for pleasure I did was brief periods while waiting for busses, in line for food, between calls at my phone center job, and the occasional marathon bowel movement.

Now, I’ve graduated. The hurricane of obligations has suddenly quieted, and the things that I was forced to abandon have since been gradually returning to my life. Finally, I can attack the growing multitudes of books I’ve purchased while under the temporary delusion that perhaps I could find time for THIS one.

And, for some added incentive, I’ll be undergoing what’s called the ’50 in 52′ challenge. The goal is simple; just get through 50 books in the 52 weeks of the year. To work my writing muscles a little more, I’ll even be writing up reviews for some of them. To get started, I’ve got list of all the books in the apartment that I have yet to complete attached below. I’m not sure if I’ll actually be able to pull it off, but I hope it will at least be that added little kick I need.

Casual Vacancy
Game of Thrones
X Call of Cthulhu
The Hobbit
Franklin Flyer
The Bang Bang Club
Lessons in Life and Death
Photography Survival Manual
Angela and Demons
Hunchback of Notre-Dame
Interesting Times
Bhagavad Gita
The Portrait of Dorian Grey
Atlas Shrugged
Heart of Darkness
20th Century Photography
25 Lessons
The Sanctity of Marriage Handbook
1 on 1: Revenge of the Red Dragon
Manga for Dummies
The Iraq War
Beyond Good and Evil
Strip for Murder
Self Phycology
Blue is for Nightmares
Life Among the Lutherans
X-Men: Phoenix Saga
The Long Halloween
Etiquette for Outlaws

Feel free to join me too. Let me know what books you want to read if undertaking the 50 in 52, share recommendations, tell me if my reviews are any help, and pass the challenge along to your fiends too. Wish me luck!