11 Photography-related Books to Read

Photography related books become a natural must for anyone with a deep love for this craft. And as time goes by, and bookshelves start flooding out, these sorts of things need to be revised at some point. Today I want to share with you 11 photography related books that I think any photographer (no matter the experience) needs to read at least once.

Here you’ll find different topics around photography, from a very concise manual on black and photography (my bible perhaps), to some books about how certain photos where actually made. You’ll also find various others that will make you think about the wonders of photography.

We are evolving into a state in which photography is ubiquitous and we need to start asking ourselves about where are we planning on going with this. If we lose the ability of being self-critique, then we will be just replicating the same stuff all over again.

The Ongoing Moment — Geoff Dyer

This book got to my hands as a gift from my friend Ben Lundsten, and is my current lecture these days. This book is a very innovative approach to the history of photography. Based on the principles of storytelling, this book tastes like a novel in which in which all the characters are the great masters of photography that we all admire. Here we can see how several photographers have approached specific common places in their own way. If you are into the history of photography, this book is an absolute must.

Camera Lucida — Roland Barthes

This is quite a short and comprehensive book written by a very important image thinker. Here he reflects about the purpose of photography as a human action driven by the impulse of registering things that are important to no-one else but us. Here he also develops one of the first ways of actually reading a photograph by traducing the terms of “punctum” and “studium” to the field of photography. His deep interest in photography and its potential to communicate things made him write this fantastic book that should be in your shelves.

Object: Photo — Modern Photographs: The Thomas Walther Collection 1909–1949

This huge book includes several photos from great photographers (some popular and some others should be popular) that where took around the first half of the twentieth century. The book comes in three main parts, the first one has a ton of insightful essays that are great for meditating about photography. Then comes the best part, some of the photos from this collection, and last but not least, the whole collection catalogue. This is a slow paced approach to the history of photography and includes a digital platform for some interactive goodies.

The Complete Guide to Black & White Digital Photography — Michael Freeman

Freeman is a natural teacher, he has a lot of fantastic photography books, but this one is special for me. It was my very first photography book I bought ever, and is still to this day a great reference for me. It made me understand black and white at a very early stage in my career, and is perhaps the best guide you could read for understanding why black and white photography is different from what you think. There is a new book by Freeman on Black and White photography that feels to me that could be a revision of the Complete Guide to Black and White Digital Photography, and you can find it here.

Street Photography: Creative Vision Behind the Lens — Valérie Jardin

What I really liked about this book is the transparency in which Valerie shares how these images where made. This is very hard to find in photography, and it should be taken with more respect than it already is. Here we can follow her through an epic photo walk around the globe. After surpassing the practical and technical aspects of street photography, she shares her personal experiences from her favorite shots. In this book you’ll be able to know about the technical and compositional choices she made of course, but more importantly, you’ll get to know her thought process too.

Photographic Visions: Inspiring Images and How They Were Made — 1X

I have a love/hate relationship with 1X, but I have to recognize one thing, they make some hell of photobooks! This book is special, because it tells about how some of the most inspirational photographs published on their platform (at that moment) where made. Here you can find some highly detailed processes and some other brief as well. It compiles explanations from the very own photographers, so it is no surprise that some of them are better explained than others. Still, it is an amazing book that is still valid today.

Magnum Contact Sheets

This book opened my mind for two main reasons. The first one that after a few pages I was able to realize that iconic photos have brothers and sisters. This might not feel like a huge thing, but let me elaborate. For some reason, I was always feeling sort of guilty of not being able to shoot meaningful scenes just once, even though when I do shoot very few frames (thanks film photography, that is what I learned from you) of a single moment. Here I was able to realize that it wasn’t wrong for me to shoot plenty of frames. The other great thing that I learned about this book is the importance of the editing process (the actual edition, the one that is all about picking solely keepers) in photography. This decision was firmly made by editors back in the day, and thanks to them is that the iconic photos we know now today are so important for human history beyond photography.

The Decisive Moment — Henri Cartier-Bresson

Alright, I gotta be honest, this book isn’t in my hands yet, but I can speak a bit about it for now. This book was originally published in 1952, and it became HCB’s opus magna, at least in intellectual terms. The name was adjusted to “the decisive moment” for selling purposes, and the original title in French is “Images à la sauvette”, which is something more sophisticated if you think about it. He believed in that term, which translates literally to something like “images on the fly”, hence the decisive feeling on the Americanized term. Beyond the jargon, this book includes very deep thoughts around photography made from HCB himself, and of course, it has some photos. Oh, and the cover is a panting made by Matisse exclusively for this book.

The Americans — Robert Frank

It is said that this book changed the course of the twentieth-century photography, and it made it only with 83 photographs. So imagine, 83 photos capable of rerouting a complete discipline into a whole different direction. Here you’ll find the America that people wasn’t able to see. And even though the 83 photographs are superb and tell us a punching story, for me the best part is the intro, which was written by Jack Kerouac himself, and is beautiful.

On Photography — Susan Sontag

This book first appeared in 1977 and is one of the most highly regarded books about photography ever written up to this day. This is perhaps the next step for all photographers that are starting to develop some serious existential questions about their craft. Here you’ll find a set of essays about the meaning of photographs and the career of a photographer. Even though when Sontag was not a photographer herself, she was Annie Leibovitz’s partner, so you can expect a very deep critique to the craft.

Photography Changes Everything — Marvin Heiferman

If this book doesn’t make you think about the power photography has, then I really don’t know what else I can share with you to help you into understanding that. This book comes with plenty of essays that illustrate us how photography changes stuff. It has helped in shaping what we want, what we see, who we are, what we do, where we go and what we remember so strongly, that the author simply says that Photography Changes Everything. So remember lads, photography can change anything, so shoot with a more responsible eye the next time.

Beyond recipes and thoughtful manuals made to replicate other photographers’ styles, all of these books are made for us to think and realise beautiful things about photography. As long as we are able to mature our love for photography by thinking more about what is what we want to achieve with our shots, the more meaningful they will get. One of the best hacks into building a solid mind-set is of course, reading. We hope that you find these books as mind blowing as they have been for me.

Originally Published at Light Stalking

Scholar & Writer on Photography | PhD Student | Photographic Guidance https://federicoalegria.com/guidance

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