Searching for a respite from grief, I backpacked through the wilderness and scrambled up the peaks with a near-desperate vigor. Long, hard hikes temporarily soothed my pain and helped me to fall into exhausted sleep at night. At some deep level, the beauty of my surroundings seeped into my subconscious—the lush colors of a meadow dense with wildflowers, the energy of a lightning storm, the clarity of a turquoise lake, the splendid perspective from a mountain peak. ~William Neill
Note: I wrote this post to pay tribute to William Neill—a photographer whose work and writing influenced mine. I have not had the pleasure of meeting Neill in person, and I have absolutely no financial interest in the books I reference. However, I am both an admirer of Neill’s work, and a collector of photography books, which is why I am recommending his book, William Neill / Photographer — A Retrospective.
In my early days as a photographer (by which I mean the years after I recognized that photography has become more than just a casual hobby), there was no such thing as a public Internet, no cellular phones, and no easy means of sharing photographs with the world. Even after the advent of public Internet, when we still used dial-up modems (I’m sure those of my generation still remember the characteristic screeching sound of modems initiating a connection), bandwidth was limited, and the kinds of photographs we casually share today would have taken a long time to transmit. In those days, the predominant media for landscape photography were magazines and coffee table books. And I do miss those beautiful books.
One of those “must have” books, at least for landscape photographers in the American West, was Landscapes of the Spirit by William (Bill) Neill. The book is sadly out of print now, but is still available in eBook form. One thing that stood out to me in Landscapes of the Spirit was Neill’s introduction, in which he describes his path as a photographer, and how the tragic death of his brother influenced his work. In that, the book inspired me to not hold back, to be willing to “go there” when writing about some of my own work and the motivations behind it.
Neill did not rest on his laurels in the years since Landscapes of the Spirit. He is a long-time columnist for Outdoor Photographer Magazine, and has published a number of books over the years. The latest among these books—William Neill / Photographer — A Retrospective—deserves special mention. The Retrospective is an impressive book, both in appearance and in content. It is a beautifully printed, large (11.6″ x 11.6″) hardcover book, which is not common these days. Most important, because the publisher had gone out of business, only a limited number of copies remain. With introductions by Art Wolfe and writings by John Weller, as well as Neill himself, this is a very enjoyable book, and, to me, a bit of a throwback to the days when I loved spending intimate time with a large photo book—a much more satisfying experience (to me, at least) than watching images scroll by among myriad distractions on a social media stream.
The Retrospective includes some of the images in Neill’s original classic,Landscapes of the Spirit, and many more from recent years. It is a worthy tribute to a great photographer, and the best collection of his works in one volume. If purchasing directly from Neill, you will also have the benefit of having him autograph your copy.
UPDATE: When Bill read this post, he asked me to mention that he still has a few print copies of Landscapes of the Spirit. If interested, please contact Bill for information.