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Within the Stone: Nature's Abstract Rock Art Hardcover – Jul 2004

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Browntrout Publishers (July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763181897
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763181895
  • Product Dimensions: 31.1 x 28.4 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,077,337 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'How can the static, the mineral, be so explosively full of motion? Maybe these are chips of the philosopher's stone.' -- Raold Hoffman, Nobel chemist & poet, May 4, 2004

From the Author

While photographing the Arizona landscape in the Petrified Forest National Park, I encountered, in a riverbed, several pieces of petrified wood that had been cracked, and then polished by flowing water. The exposed colors and shapes were captivating. Wanting to see more, I visited several nearby rock shops and purchased a number of beautiful cut and polished pieces of petrified wood.

I brought these polished rocks back home to my studio, studied them to find expressive compositions, and carefully photographed them under glare-free lighting. The resulting photographs were exciting and evocative -even more so than the original rocks.

The photographs looked like abstract paintings. Their shapes and colors showed a timeless mystery and complexity, such that each image kept revealing new secrets. Abstracted from the rocks, the images showed no sense of scale, and provided fertile ground for imagination and wonder.

As I showed the photographs to people, I found that different people saw different things within them, but almost no one saw them as flat polished rocks. The rock photographs were like colored Rorschach tests, encouraging each person to project his or her own personal experiences onto each image.

I sought out more polished rocks to photograph, buying or borrowing and photographing a wide variety of rocks in addition to the petrified wood, and I refined my techniques for photographing them.

For higher resolution and more accurate color than is possible with film, I switched from my Hasselblad medium-format film camera to a BetterLight large-format scanning digital camera. I also researched lighting technologies, and assembled custom high-intensity lighting fixtures which would allow me to use polarized lighting with the new camera. I found that the bright lights and glare-blocking filters brought out the colors more intensely than one would see on casual examination by room light.

The large, fine-art prints that I made of these rock images were well received in public exhibitions and in the galleries that sell my work, but I wanted to share these images with a much wider audience, in the form of an art book.

To find more rocks to photograph, I began attending the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, where thousands of collectors bring rocks from all around the world. Each year, I packed my car full of photographic equipment, drove to Arizona, and set up a professional photo studio in a motel room. I examined thousands of polished rocks, and purchased and photographed quite a few.

I even bought a diamond-bladed rock saw, a diamond-wheeled bench grinder, and a vibrating flat lap, and learned how to cut and polish rocks myself. However, most of the rocks photographed for this book were already cut and polished by someone else.

At the Tucson show, I showed a prototype of the book I was making to rock collectors and dealers, and asked permission to borrow their best pieces to photograph in my motel room. Some of them took prized specimens out of their display cases, telling me that they were not for sale but that I could borrow them to photograph. Thanks to their trust and generosity, I have been able to assemble an extensive collection of beautiful rock art photographs.

Over the years as I kept returning to Tucson, I developed friendships with many dealers and collectors. In general, these rockhounds are a warm-hearted and friendly group whose shared passion for rocks brings them from all over the world to gather in Tucson.

They taught me much about rocks and minerals, and generously shared their special techniques to help me with my own rock polishing hobby. Over dinner and beers they brought me stories of life from very different parts of the world.

Every year I delivered a number of large matted and signed fine art prints to thank those who had allowed me to photograph their rocks the previous year. These were gratefully accepted and cherished and helped to deepen friendships and open further doors for me.

Word spread about me and my book project, and often when I first approached a dealer asking to borrow an expensive rock, they would say that friends had already told them about me, and that I could be trusted. More than once a dealer has held an extraordinary specimen for me to photograph before it sold.

Out of the thousands of rocks that I have photographed, I have chosen my personal favorite photographs to share in this book.

Each photograph is a work of discovered art that begins with the oldest art form, a natural sculpture created in stone millions of years ago, which has only recently been cut and polished to reveal its inner colors and shapes.
Within these colors and shapes, I have searched for evocative and memorable compositions, caputured these images with my cameras, and fine tuned the results to create expressive photographic prints.

As an artist, I have come to believe that beauty is not out there waiting to be discovered. Rather, beauty is created by the human act of noticing and appreciating. I feel that my primary task as an artist is to notice and to appreciate, and only then to share my experience with others.

It is my hope that this book will touch the sensibilities of many people, just as the magnificence in these rocks has touched mine.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Driving to an appointment in Flagstaff, Arizona, I could hardly afford to detour. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The quality of the photography is fantastic as is the printingof this book which uses FM screening. The quality of the reproductions are what I judge other printing by. We use the same Betterlight camera system as used by Bill Atkinson for most of his pictures Richard Kenward (Precision Drum Scanning)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 21 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Truly beautiful book 25 Jun. 2004
By Onyx Parrot - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is easily the most striking collection of natural color photographs I've seen. By photographing the stone surfaces as flat, full frame objects, the images take on a vivid abstract sense that is just breathtaking. Atkinson's meticulous attention to every detail of preparing the book really shines - you'll have to get out a magnifying glass to believe you're not looking at original prints.
Personally, I would have paired the scientific text describing the minerals at the back of the book with the full frame photos and left out the other "writing". Random poetry and essays seem irrelevant next to such dazzling imagery. But this is really a minor point - you're buying this book for the pictures!
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A Groundbreaking and breathtaking book 18 Jun. 2004
By Lito Tejada-Flores - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Within The Stone is a magical book - full of surprises, and delights - but not exactly a book one can sum up in a few words. Is this high art? An abstract, post-post-post-expressionist fanatasy? Or is this natural histroy at its best? A jouney deep behind the surface of the world we live in? Truth or ficiton? Poetry or prose? In fact, this book of intensely vivid color photographs is all that and more. Photographs don't usually, or easily, cross the line from docmentary description to ambiguously mysterious art. But these large photographs of exotic rocks and minerals from around the world do just that. They escape from their literal and mineral points of departure. They soar, and our imagination soars with them...
Bill Atkinson, the photographer-creator of Withn The Stone is responisble for more than just its stunning photography. In his previous life, Bill was instrumental in creating the original Macintosh computer, and the graphical user interface that the whole world now takes for granted. In recent years, Bill has focused his computer-science expertise on his other pasion, photography, sharing his discoveries with leading professional photographers across the country, and becoming, in a real sense, the "Ansel Adams" of digital photo printing. Having pushed the limits of photographic printing, Atkinson has now done the same thing for bookmaking. Four-color presses have never before been capable of reproducing colors as intense as those in these images. So Atkinson had to develop a whole new method of color printing for the Japanese firm that printed this exquisite book.
Thus, Within The Stone is not only a remarkable artistic achievement, it's a technical breakthrough as well, the new benchmark in color photo book making. But most importantly, it is a major aesthetic creation. These are fresh images, images that transcend their literal content, windows into a unexpected world. This is a book you will return to again and again, discovering something new each time you look Within The Stone.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Amazing and Powerful 28 Jun. 2004
By Thom Franklin - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Nowhere I have I seen diverse elements join so naturally as in this book. Science-Art-Beauty-and-Truth all merge through walls I did not know I had. Then I find myself deep inside the colors and nuances of polished crystal, which thanks to Mr. Atkinson's paradigm shattering digital photography, all of us can see, really see, for the first time.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Hypnotic 26 Dec. 2004
By J. Johnson - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
These photographs look like abstract art at first, but as you study them you realize they have a flow, complexity, and range of colors that paintings can't duplicate.

I also recommend Mineral Masterpieces which shows the sculptural shapes as well as the infinite range of colors in the best crystals.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Beauties within Beauties within Beauties 22 Nov. 2006
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is the <u>BEST ART BOOK</u> I have ever found to give as a present. The photography is stunning. Atkinson has accomplished something wonderous and filled with beauty. This is a unique collection you want to show your family and friends and, perhaps, it will even reconcile your enemies. The accompanying commentary by the famous and near famous is sweet icing on a very substanial and fulfilling cake.
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