Book reviews “From Basics to Fine Art” collected from the Internet

You can buy the eBook directly from our webshop or you could read the reviews below first.

Shortly after we first officially released our eBook “From Basics to Fine Art – B&W Photography – Architecture and Beyond”, written by yours truly and my co-author Julia Anna Gospodarou that you can buy here , reviews started to come in, some collected from emails, others from social media posts and there were a few that were written as a foreword for the book. You can find a few of them below and more will be added once they come in.

What the experts think of the book:

A foreword written by B&W Luminous author and instructor George DeWolfe:
“Outside of Ansel Adams’ Basic Photo Series, From Basic to Fine Art, by Joel Tjintjelaar and Julia Anna Gospodarou, is the best book on B&W photography written in the last 40 years.”  (…) “The importance of the book is reached in Julia’s and Joel’s abilities to blend the practice of classical form and content in vision and tech­nique, so that Form is Content.  While others claim to have achieved this state of aesthetic grace, this is the first time I have seen it acc­omplished with great skill and with a brilliant explanation of how to get there.”  (…) “ I consider Julia’s (en)Visionography and Photography Drawing the most important innovation in B&W photography since the invention of the Zone System.”  (…)
– George DeWolfe

A foreword written by dr. Charles Paul Azzopardi:
“In today’s humankind ever-increasing urge for homogenization and uniformity, Joel and Julia stand out. Joel is the modern equivalent of what Ansel Adams did for black & white photography in the film era, always exploring new horizons, new techniques, and new frontiers to explore. Julia Anna, on the other hand, is the chimera of Imogen Cunningham and Vivian Maier, merging one of the sharpest eyes in the art world with the artistic flair to make every image canvas come alive.”  (…) “Their book and stunning images testify to their intellectual curios­ity and desire to understand where they are coming from, who they became and where they are going, together with taking black & white art to ever higher dizzying heights.” (…)
– Dr. Charles Paul Azzopardi

A book review by Ian Barber, B&W photography instructor: 
I have now finished reading the book from beginning to end. For anyone who is both passionate and willing to understand what Fine Art Black and White Photography is all about, this book in an absolute must buy in my opinion. The way in which both Joel and Julia explain everything is easy to follow and with great detail. Not only do they explain their personal vision but also share some of their secrets in what it takes to produce some of the best Fine Art Architecture images around today. I have been making Black and White photographs for a few years and I have learnt so much from these two photographers especially as they explain how to approach architecture, understanding the light and reaching out for a better composition. If architecture is not your thing but long exposure photography in general is, Joel and Julia explain everything there is to know about the subject including some of the pitfalls to watch out for. All in all, this is the one book which i will reach for time and time again for both interesting reading and also as a great reference source.
– Ian Barber, Black and white fine art photographer and instructor on Facebook.

A book review by educator and fine art photographer Antony Northcutt on his blog:

“… to conclude …. Circa 1950, Ansel Adams first published a trilogy of photography books called, “The Camera, The Negative and The Print”, widely accepted as the gospel in terms of producing and printing photographic images. I can’t help but think that Joel and Julia have produced a volume that will have the same effect as Ansel’s books did, and continue to do so to this day…”

Antony Northcutt

A beautiful review written by Jack Torcello on his blog:
If Barnbaum was the bible of Black and White…
…then Gospodarou (and Tjintjelaar) is the gospel!).    
As Gospodarou and gospel share the same root, I am quite certain that for all black and white photographers at least, that this epic new publication will rest comfortably alongside the Bruce Barnbaum bible (‘Art of Photography’). Barnbaum managed to straddle the old wet and analogue process of photography, and the new, digital age. He gave us an insight into the art of the process, whether A or D, and his ideas are still relevant today. Gospodarou and Tjintjelaar have finally given B&W photography a massive – not to say transcending – push into the digital age! And yes, Greek people do philosophy like no other, and Julia Anna gives us her comprehensive insight into her artistic philosophy in the pages of their book. And it is a captivating insight, page 35 perhaps at its nadir where you need to be at your sharpest to absorb and identify. But she does include all aptitudes in her insight. Gospodarou synthesises together the ages old activity of vision and process. She implies that the photograph rises above the status of artefact (of being a thing, or an object) by the process of marrying artistic vision with creative process. She argues that fine art photography – being on a higher, plane of photography, is a function of a process she (rigidly) names (en)Visioning; and that in today’s digital age, any photographer making fine-art b&w photographs is involved in a wholly new genre of photography she calls (en)Visionography. This is because the digital age allows the photographer so much more freedom to create, and is not limited by the dynamics of the dark-room. This word succinctly blends together the acts of sight (the physical eye), of artistic vision (the mind’s eye/imagination/soul) and the process (and for many this includes software, and not just the camera), leading to the finished result: the Fine-Art B&W Photograph. She puts into her own words the reflections on creativity that many great writers before her have done; and she does it well. Here we see the great discourse on mimesis and even hermeneutics guiding her thoughts; Gadamer’s words on the processing of ‘idea’ or ‘impulse’ signify greatly in the background, Aristolean mimesis too. And Minor White’s “Equivalences”. All good to know. Where she did give this writer pause for thought may well prove to be a ‘nicety’ of language: she states that art is selfish – it is for no-one else than its progenitor i.e. you yourself. I hope I am not too picky, but the sense of selfish that comes across here is self-interested. The sense conveyed here is of a self hermetically sealed from the world of experience, & thus has no consequences, no repercussions to her actions, creative as they are. I feel that this notion of selfishness needs expansion to save it from its pejorative sense: selfish here, I am sure, relates to the process of selving. Creativity creates the creator anew in his or her work, is involved in the extension and growth of the self, rather than proscribing his or her world by selfishly cutting it off from view. By definition, art is ‘for an other’. Art can not be art unless there is a second a ‘significant other’: art is for show. If art is ultimately for the selfish self, then it has no value, and can only remain meaningless. Gadamer put it quite succinctly: pre-conformation (spark, energy, impulse, idea); conformation (making the spark intelligible to the self); re-conformation – putting your new & created understanding & vision into terms that others can relate to. I feel that the ‘selfish’ self that Julia Anna refers to is this conforming self, where she gets ‘on terms’ with her original idea, grows it and develops it, makes fullest creative use. This is the truly personal element in creation and creativity, where there is no outside person or self involved. Here, the artistic vision is truly proscribed by the self, as indeed this self is growing, growing towards her new vision. It can be said that she is selving (in her selfishness), creating herself anew. You cannot be selfish once your art (the photograph) is published. As a great man once said, and I paraphrase “The meaning is above the photograph!” The artistic artefact – in our case, the photograph – is an occasion that gives rise to a unique event: the interpretation. And for every viewer of our work, that interpretation each time is unique. It precludes ownership the paper, glass, and frame of the photograph. And I am no proponent of any “ideal reader” theory where the original intent of the artistic vision was to have cloned an idea or message ‘exactly’ into every appreciator. This ‘inelucatable modality’ (an idea taken from James Joyce) if you like, is the idea that you can reconstitute experience exactly (whether contemporary or historical) as if by ‘simply adding water!’ This Joycean ideal is too direct an analogy between art and experience So as a slight criticism of Gospodarou’s ‘selfish’ artist, my critical expansion is appropriate. Mimesis is an ancient Greek term. It can mean ‘the act of making’ – the putting of self into an artistic artefact in such a way as to convey emotion, thought, or both. Writers often talk of their work as an energy loaded into the page like a spring; the act of reading uleashes this spring, and the jolt of energy contained therein passes somehow into the reader’. S/he is somehow changed by this energy, this response, experiences catharsis. And is not the response to a photograph also like the energy its maker (the photographer) has loaded into the page? Fine art deals with the higher senses, as Gospodarou succinctly writes it ‘the soul’. Catharsis – some kind of sloughing off of a layer of self, like a serpent’ skin releasing us to grow, to create ourselves anew. This hopefully positive catharsis occasioned by our encounter with a photographer’s work, somehow extends us: with the best art (as fine art) such extension of human experience is for the good. Fine art is improving, improves us, and Gospodarou’s repeated reference to the soul reminds us that she has a heightened and almost spiritual sense guiding her work. Art is not quite the audacity of “being God” (Prometheus, quieten down!!!), yet Gospodarou gently nudges us along in a direction that suggests we share with god/the gods, that transcendent capacity to create. So creation is something heightened, not to say sacred. It sets us apart from all other creatures, it is the height of endeavour. Along with Joel Tjintjelaar, she has given us an amazing – not to say epic – book, which not only is a great read – especially with all its practical advice – but is a ‘good book’ as well: it will be read, and cherished, for many years to come. (As a balanced review of the whole, this review centres on the philosophy of creativity which to a greater or lesser extent is Gospodarou’s contribution. Tjintjelaar also quotes his vision, but it is less extensive. That is not to say the least important by any means!)
– Jack Torcello (click here for the original blog article)

A review written by B&W photographer Noel Baldewijns:
From Basics to Fine Art gives an extended inside look on what goes behind the portfolio of these two top photographers, Julia Anna Gospodarou and Joel Tjintjelaar. The book provides answers to all the questions that may arise for everyone exercising this very exquisite form of fine-art photography, and even more, this book is “THE” necessary reference. It is written to share knowledge, vision, experience, tips and tricks, to inspire and so much more. Without any doubt it is the most complete book ever published on this subject.

Joel Tjintjelaar is a B&W fine art photographer from the Netherlands specializing in LE and architectural  photography. He has won several international photography awards, he was featured by NIK/Google software Silver Efex Pro 2 in their advertisement campaign, and he has recently released, together with Formatt-Hitech a signature edition IRDN filter set carrying his name and signature. Julia Anna Gospodarou is a well-accomplished architect who collaborated with famous names in the international architectural world and is an international awarded B&W fine art photographer with high distinctions in the most important photography competitions worldwide. Julia lives in Athens but considers herself a global citizen.

The book holds 33 very detailed and complete chapters. After reading it, I realized it can be split up in 2 main separate parts:

The first part is very intense and a must read for every photographer, fine art or not. The topics you can find inside include how to develop a personal vision, what is the theory behind vision and presents a guide on how to get there. Julia writes about the well-know German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer and she says: “The world is a dream, the world is an image. So the world is unique for each of us and in our interpretation”. Furthermore, Joel and Julia refer to Alfred Stieglitz concept of Equivalents. Referring to vision, Joel says: “It is not what you capture that matters, it is how you interpret it that matters and will elevate it from a snapshot to a work of art” Both authors will provide you with hands-on tips on how to find your vision.

The second part of the book is speaks about all the technical, practical and post-processing tools that one must know. I have to say the subject is covered in a very complete way. Everything is there!

*Composition and light: If the composition is bad, there is no way that the image can be saved… Study the old masters to learn about the use of light…. Simple means beautiful…. Learn all the  (composition) rules, study all the examples, listen to all the advice, then do it your way!
*Photography drawing !: The method of Photography Drawing (Phtd) is related to how to shape volumes by using light as a tool. It is how to process and render an image the way you would draw it in black pencil.
*Rules of gray !: “there is just one color in B&W photography and that is gray: 10 rules of B&W photography that everybody should know.
* Emotional abstract is all about capturing the emotional soul of the building. To do so, you have to understand the architect and building in front of you!
* Guidelines for cityscapes and skyline photography, night photography and the setting tips for all these styles of architectural photography.
* A very interesting section is the one about “subjects in Architectural street photography” which is a genre on its own. Here the authors discuss human presence vs the person as a subject n architectural Street photography, this being the main difference with the classical street photography which is more assertive  as opposed to this one, which is more contemplative and reflective.
* Additional topics include HDR, Infra red and also all technical aspects and principles of LE photography. 
* It also includes the fully detailed iSGM technique developed by Joel.
* There is also an important and very detailed chapter in this book explaining how to use a T/S lens in a correct way.
* The book shows also an insight into the processing workflow Julia and Joel are using in their award winning photos.
As a conclusion, I can say that this work is probably the most complete work produced on this form of art. It is done by 2 of the finest B&W LE photographers of today. It is also written in an “easy to read” structure. I highly recommend this work for everyone who wants to go the next level with their B&W photography.
– Noel Baldewijns, B&W photographer 

More reviews from random readers all over the Internet:

A review written by photography enthusiast John Cuddihy:
I have slowly worked my way through to Chapter 8, composition. This book needs to be taken a bit at a time, like having a long slow meal with the finest of food. It will be several weeks yet before I complete the first reading, but so far, all I can say is that this is the greatest book on photography to come out since Bruce Barnbaum’s Art of Photography. I can see myself referring back to your book again and again upon whatever photographic journey I embark upon in the coming years. Having just completed a body of work in decay in machinery over a few years, it’s  now time to move on “to fresh fields and pastures new”. 
John Cuddihy

A few words by another photography enthusiast Andreas:

I haven’t read the whole book yet, but let me say, it is the best book I ever  read about B&W photography and especially about architecture and art.
The book transports your spirit and I feel your passion.
Thank you very, very much for sharing. I learned a lot.
– Andreas

If you want to read it to convince yourself, then you can purchase the book on our web store.


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