"Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography and Creative Thinking" by Julieanne Kost
Review Date: April 2nd 2005
In her job as Adobe Photoshop evangelist, Julieanne Kost travels on airplanes a lot, so much so that she took 3,000 photos in 5 years from plane windows. "Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography and Creative Thinking" from O'Reilly is the end result of this prolific output. As well as presenting the very best images, this book also attempts to offer insights into how Kost took the photos, how she processed them, and how she keeps her own creative spirit alive. "Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography and Creative Thinking" attempts to fuse together the genres of glossy coffee-table book and Photoshop manual - find out if it succeeds by reading my review.
The recommended retail price of "Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography and Creative Thinking" in the UK is £28.50 and in the US it is $39.99.
"Window Seat" is divided into 3 main sections. Section 1, The Art of Creative Thinking, lists 18 ways to improve your creative thinking. Section 2, Window Seat, is the main focus of the book, comprising 80 pages of photographs interspersed with brief commentary. Section 3, an appendix on Imaging Techniques, reveals how Kost took the images and processed them. "Window Seat" is 148 pages long and is produced with full-colour photos throughout.
Julieanne Kost undoubtedly has a great eye for photography, and the majority of the images in "Window Seat" are simply beautiful. I found the abstract shots of fields, deserts and mountains to be most appealing, and there are also some great photos of cloud formations and the distant horizon. This book opens your eyes to how many different viewpoints there are from a window-seat in a plane, something that most people (myself included) take for granted, preferring to watch the on-board TV or read a book. The photographs have been very well organised so that they form a kind of narrative - all of the field shots are together, for example, followed by the desert shots, and so on. Julieanne Kost has created a stunning set of abstract images from an everyday, mundane situation, which is what I think photography is all about.
Having said that, I don't think "Window Seat" is the best realisation of Kost's creative vision. I said in the introduction that it attempts to create a mix of Photoshop manual and coffee-table book, and ultimately I think it falls short on both counts. "Window Seat" is well-printed, but it isn't good enough to do full justice to the photography. The book is an oversized square format which is distinctive, but it's also a paperback, presumably to keep the costs of production and the eventual sale price down. Most importantly, the Photoshop manual parts feel like half-finished book-ends to the main event. Only 8 pages are dedicated to the Creative Thinking section, with the Imaging Techniques faring a little better at 13 pages, and I didn't really learn anything new after reading either section. Ultimately I'd have preferred to have seen Kost's photographs given a more luxury treatment than they get in "Window Seat", even if that was at the expense of the textual elements of the book.
(out of 5 stars)
"Window Seat" is clearly a great project that has taken time, dedication and creative spark to realise, with some truly inspiring photographs, but this book is not the most effective method of presenting it. The text elements don't really add a great deal to the photographs. It's not that Kost is an uninteresting writer, but more that the format that O'Reilly have chosen doesn't allow for the writing to be in-depth enough. Kost and O'Reilly have tried to appeal to two different markets in one book, which ultimately weakens "Window Seat" and more importantly the photos that it contains. I think it's still worth buying on the strength of Kost's photography alone, but you may be disappointed if you're expecting the perfect blend of presentation and insight.