Full Title & Author:
Learning To See by Elise Hooper
How I Came Across This Book:
I can’t exactly say where I had seen this book before but I can say that I found it popping up in the background of my life most recently. Perhaps this was in part due to Darwin’s new project out on the Arizona Trail, that I was sensitive to anything regarding photography or film.
A few weeks ago, this book finally just slapped me in the face while standing in the check-out line at the library. I could ignore it no longer and made a mad dash to grab it off the shelf and checked it out. In some ways, I felt reading about a photographer would somehow allow me to understand this art form better and feel more connected to Darwin, while he is out filming and photographing the people and places of the AZT. I often find comfort in books and this one was no different especially for the fact it was the story of an amazing woman.
I immediately liked the book and found it never to be dull or slow. The author Elise Hooper is a good writer, however, if you do any research on Dorothea Lange, you’ll realize Lange’s life was never exactly dull or slow in reality. Lange traveled around America doing things that were frowned on for a woman to do. She sought out places that men would shy away from and she did what she could with the skills she had. She followed her passions regardless of what others said about her; a true artist.
Learning To See is another historical novel which like I have mentioned in another review, I find easy to read and learn from. The novel depicts the life of American photographer and photojournalist Dorothea Lange at the start of her career around 1918 to a few years before her death in 1965. Although Lange was not a hiker, she was a female adventurer who found herself in many precarious situations traveling thousands of miles and making sacrifices to provide for her family and to capture a story.
The author Elise Hooper, is upfront with the fact that although the novel depicts historical events in both Dorothea Lange’s life and the world she did take a few liberties in order to present the book from the perspective of Lange herself. Hooper even discusses this further in the “P.S” section, in the back of the book. As I read, I would often refer to pictures Lange captured in specific times in her life (a few are also presented in the book) which gave even more meaning to what I read. Lange risked her family and her life to show the world the devastation brought on by the Great Depression and traveled to remote places to show the horrors experienced by Japanese Americans who were forced to evacuate their homes to be incarcerated in camps after Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. Her photos are now pieces of history that many would like to forget but we can no doubt all learn from.
Not only did I find Lange’s photography interesting but also the crowd of fellow artists she was friends with such as Ansel Adams the landscape photographer and environmentalist and Frida Kahlo the highly famous Mexican artist. One can also not mention Lange without mentioning her husband of fifteen years the famous painter of the American West, Maynard Dixon. I found the mix of Hooper’s writing and the basic facts of Lange’s life to be full of inspiration. Lange herself was surrounded by creative people who found their inspiration and pursued it no matter the costs as she herself did.
I think Learning To See is a book for anyone looking for inspiration to create something. Whatever your art form is writing, photography, filmography, painting, etc. Dorothea Lange’s life alone will get you motivated to show the world what you can do even if the world doesn’t want it yet. This book also gave me a little more understanding of the mindset of what it takes to capture a shot, a moment. It’s more than just setting up the camera and looking through a lens. It has a lot to do with the artist, their surroundings, and if taking that shot is really what they are passionate about.
Hooper’s novel can be found following this Amazon link https://amzn.to/2UEzVYo or check your local library to see for yourself!
A Few Other Book Reviews: