Photography books worth your time - the visual language of photography

BBW

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 7, 2010
123
betwixt and between
BB
Since this is in the "Philosophy of Photography" forum not the image processing or technique forum, I thought it would be helpful to start a list of books we've found inspirational over the course of time.

An introductory thread by bouvin, got me started down this route because he mentions a book he has found very helpful. Well it happens to have the same title as a book that I have always loved..so hence I've begun this thread which I hope everyone will contribute to and find helpful.

My first entry is "The Photographer's Eye" by John Szarkowski. I'm using Amazon as my linked to description because it is the easiest for me. Here is the editorial bit from the site to give you a taste for what lies within
The Photographer's Eye by John Szarkowski is a twentieth-century classic--an indispensable introduction to the visual language of photography. Based on a landmark exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in 1964, and originally published in 1966, the book has long been out of print. It is now available again to a new generation of photographers and lovers of photography in this duotone printing that closely follows the original. Szarkowski's compact text eloquently complements skillfully selected and sequenced groupings of 172 photographs drawn from the entire history and range of the medium. Celebrated works by such masters as Cartier-Bresson, Evans, Steichen, Strand, and Weston are juxtaposed with vernacular documents and even amateur snapshots to analyze the fundamental challenges and opportunities that all photographers have faced. Szarkowski, the legendary curator who worked at the Museum from 1962 to 1991, has published many influential books. But none more radically and succinctly demonstrates why--as U.S. News & World Report put it in 1990--"whether Americans know it or not," his thinking about photography "has become our thinking about photography."
This is a great book, if you're not familiar with it. Take a look at the first "review" and I think you'll get a good feel for this valuable book.
 

Grant

Veteran
Nov 12, 2010
68
Lunenburg Nova Scotia

I must agree this is a great book. To keep this thread going I will add a three more books.

My first pick is a must have book "The Americans" by Robert Frank.

My second pick is "Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography" by Roland Barthes. It is a bit heavy but after reading in I had a better understanding of photography as art.

Finally, and if you have lots of money, you should own "Diane Arbus Revelations" by Diane Arbus.
 

TraamisVOS

Hall of Famer
Nov 29, 2010
124
Melbourne, Australia
I don't have a specific book to recommend but I really like architecture and interior design books. They may not be specifically photography-centric but they do involve differing styles of photography to capture the architectural structures and design.
 

olli

Super Moderator Emeritus
Sep 28, 2010
123
Sofia, Bulgaria
olli
Canadian photographer David DuChemin is the author of one of my most recent favourite books Vision and Voice. Here's how he describes what the book is about:

The deeper my forays into digital photography, the more I am sure that there are
three images that make a final photograph: the one you envision, the one you
shoot, and the one you develop. The better you are at the last two, the closer
you can come to the first. This book is about that third image that goes into the
final photograph—the one that is refined in the digital darkroom.


Happily for me, this book is specifically about the digital darkrooom that is Lightroom. What makes this book different from, for example, Martin Evening's excellent and encyclopedic guide to Lightroom is that DuChemin hasn't set out to produce yet another Lightroom encyclopedia. For that purpose, Evening is unbeatable.

Instead, DuChemin focuses his discussion of Lightroom around the concept of the photographic vision, starting with a discussion of the idea of vision and its relationship to the business of process. In fact it is only with chapter six that DuChemin gets around to a specific discussion of Lightroom and its capabilities as a tool for expressing vision through process.

After a single long chapter discussing the key tools availabe in Lightroom the final, and to me the best, section of the book consists of twenty before and after images where DuChemin describes the 'how' of processing for each one but also the 'why', that is, why certain decisions were made to process the image in particular ways, decisions that in turn lead back to the idea of vision.

To me, this book works fantastically well as a complement to Evening's book because it is not just about the technicalities of processing but also about the aesthetics both in the broad sense - the overall vision - and the narrower sense - the specific aesthetic decisions behind particular images.

If you want to get a sample of DuChemin's writings before handing over your cash I recommend a visit to his blog, pixelated image.
 

Fuddlestack

Regular
Dec 1, 2010
43
Alsace, France
Alas that it's 73 quid... In general, I like books of photographs more than books about taking them - the inspiration is in the pictures. I was always taken by Cartier-Bresson's stuff and other pictures for the 1930s, when 35mm was beginning and reporting became much more immediate. A few years back, too, I picked up the two whacking great volumes the Hulton Deutsch Collection's 150 Years of Photojournalism - they're great. Since the takeove they've been relabelled "Hulton Getty", because there's an 800 pp hardcover tome of the same title going on Amazon UK for £16.24. These go all the way back to hoop skirts.

Stephen Poliakoff's BBC serials Shooting the Past and Perfect Strangers also give particular punch to old photographs - they really make you want to print all your good ones and put them away somewhere for posterity.
 

linkedit

Rookie
Nov 7, 2010
3
Morris County, NJ
Any Irving Penn book. Unfortunately they are all out of print and exspensive. Penn was the master, hands down.

I always find Michael Kenna inspirational as well.

Amazon.com: Michael Kenna: A 20 Year Retrospective (9781590050194): Michael Kenna: Books

Amazon.com: Le Notre's Gardens (9780963078537): Eric T. Haskell, Michael Kenna: Books

And then Tom Baril but his first book is (of course) out of print and frickin expensive

Amazon.com: Tom Baril (9780965745000): Tom Baril: Books

I still kick myself because I could have bought a new copy on the street in NYC for $50 when it came out.
 

olli

Super Moderator Emeritus
Sep 28, 2010
123
Sofia, Bulgaria
olli
Thanks for the suggestions and welcome here. Can I suggest you also introduce yourself on the welcomes and introductions thread.
 

Streetshooter

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 12, 2010
123
Philly, Pa
Perhaps the singly most important book by the single most important photographer of all time.
Andre' Kertesz, His Life and Work. By, Pierre Borhan. Amazon.com: Andre Kertesz: His Life and Work (9780821226483): Laszlo Beke, Dominique Baque, Jane Livingston, Pierre Borhan: Books

I have 10 1st Editions left. I bought many more and gave them as presents over the years but now....no way.
Everyone talks about Bresson and rightfully so. Kertesz is the actual discoverer of Candid Photography with a small camera.
Trust me, this book will shed light on working with a small camera.
Shooter

There is an image on the back cover titled, "My brother as a scherzo" made in Hungary in 1919. It is absolutely a dream to view.
 

Streetshooter

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 12, 2010
123
Philly, Pa
Another must have in the well read library....
Josef Sudek, Poet of Prague A Photographers Life Amazon.com: Josef Sudek: Poet Of Prague (Aperture Monograph) (9780893813864): Anna Faroua, Josef Sudek: Books

I was stunned by looking at the collection of his work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art years ago...... Sudek worked a view camera with 1 arm. His images are pure visual magic.
Many on this forum doing close ups, portraits, garden, landscape etc would be inspired by Sudek's work.

There's more but it's expensive to get the books I suggest... more later...
Shooter
 

Brianive

New Member
Nov 11, 2010
3
You might also try "The Zen of Creativity, Cultivating Your Artistic Life", by John Daido Loori. This was required reading for a continuing ed photography course I took a couple of years ago at the University of New Mexico.

I am a new member with a new LX5, sold my Canon 7D, gave my Canon 20D to my daughter and put my Canon 5D on the shelf for a while.
I have certainly enjoyed reading the threads since I joined a few weeks ago.
 

BBW

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 7, 2010
123
betwixt and between
BB
Brianive, welcome and thank you for this book suggestion. Glad to hear you're enjoying your LX5 and hope your daughter is having fun with that Canon. My daughter is borrowing my OM-1 film camera and her own new four thirds Olympus 620.:wink:

When you have a chance, stop by for an official "induction" over on the Welcomes and Introductions forum.:biggrin:
 

Streetshooter

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 12, 2010
123
Philly, Pa
I still think it's one of the most important books ever written.
I'm really glad that you read it also. I dont know many that ever do.
Shame....
 
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Grant

Veteran
Nov 12, 2010
68
Lunenburg Nova Scotia
Streetshooter

I came to photography through art and the book seems to be well know in the art world. I suspect if you come to art through photography this book may slip under the radar. You are right about the it being a shame.
 
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Boyzo

Veteran
Jul 14, 2010
68
Wylie I recall Paul Strand's work (he is one of the contributors) in the book you mention

I don't have a specific recommendation on "Composition" only the
4 book series by Ansel Adams
Also books by Fred Picker (passed away recently) on the Zone System and his work in Easter Island
One I have is "Principles of composition in photography" by Andreas Feninger ... probably out of print.

In my early days I was inspired by B&W (70's) today with digital I find things (for me) have changed
I seldom refer to any books I have preferring to use just my intuition with a few simple rules.
Just recently found a good book thats up to date
"The Photographers Eye" by Michael Freeman you can get it as an Ebook in pdf its by Focal Press (excellent publisher) of Photography books
Thsi book is VERY in depth on composition very well illustrated
 
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BBW

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 7, 2010
123
betwixt and between
BB
I've temporarily moved this thread to the front page because it's a very valuable and ongoing listing and it is "that time of year" where many are giving gifts.

We also know that print books are having a tough time and we'd hate to see them dwindle away or see our beloved books go out of print. So if you're still searching for that perfect present for a fellow or sister photographer, perhaps you'll find that gift in this thread - or even buy yourself a good book?:wink:
 

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