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Monday, 05 August 2013


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The one book that has really stood out for me about breaking through the creative barrier is a book called "The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles" by Steven Pressfield. Geared a bit towards writers it will help any one doing creative work buckle down and get it done.

What do you mean you can't buy Gisèle Freund anymore? Don't you read French?

It's still widely available in the original, and will forever be:

Incidentally, the "primmer vs. prymer" pronunciation issue is not settled. It's an on-going debate, primarily (ha!) because it makes no sense to say "primmer." The root word is "prime" not "prim," etc. etc. You might suggest it's borrowed from the English (i.e., England) pronunciation, but according to some sources no one there says it like that.

(I won't repeat the debate but here's one good source: http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/10036/why-is-primer-pronounced-with-a-short-i-sound )

I met John once in Rotterdam....inspiring.

Greets, Ed.

An old book I've just started is Szarkowski's The Photographer's Eye, with Looking At Photograph's on the back burner.

There are also a number of really good videos around. The one I most enjoyed is the series The Genius of Photography, all of which can be viewed online now. I wonder what others would recommend in the way of video.

Several promising reads there.

A couple of the most useful photography/art books for me have come from TOP recommendations, The Practice of Contemplative Photography and Why Photographs Work.

Then there's Szarkowski. Everyone seems to recommend this book. I've had it for some years. Every so often, I crack it at random, but find the same thing I found when I tried to read it from the beginning.
Very few of the images engage me in any way, the text doesn't change that and the text about those that do elicit a response in me add little to the direct response.

I guess a mid 20th century, academic/curatorial view of photography is not my cuppa. Different strokes ...

Already lining up the others to try.


Thankyou! This is the side of photography that I've found it so hard to get good reading materials for. It's easy to find explanations of f-stops, rule of thirds and the like anywhere but learning about the actual art of photography is so much more difficult.

1) I can't believe that the 'Daybooks' are out of print and
2) I'll have to pick up a copy of 'ABC of Reading'.
(I have the other three you mention.)

The fifth book? The Photographer's Eye by John Szarkowski.

Actually it would be the very first one on my list.


I might add Stephen Shore's The Nature of Photographs: A Primer to this growing list of important books about photographing. It's easy to digest while being surprisingly thought-provoking.

Book five - the Stephen Shore book about looking at photographs?

A few weeks ago, I was pondering my notion that a good photograph is a poem, or communicates in ways similar to poetry, Billy Collins appeared on the radio in a spot normally occupied by Garrison Keillor.
It occurred to me that Mr. Collins might be able to suggest a read from some authors who had addressed the photograph/poem connection.
He was very kind to write back, suggesting "Looking at Photographs" by John Szarkowski and a couple of others. I now have a hardcover copy of "Looking at Photographs", and it is beautiful and beautiful.
Creating a conversation in the mind indeed.

at the risk of being off-topic and crashing his website, i'd also recommend prof. paul turounet's site for his students:


several other books to check out are stephen shore's "the nature of photography," susan sontag's "regarding the pain of others," and a.d. coleman's "light readings."

Sadly, The Education of a Photographer does not appear to be available as a Kindle download.

It was maddening reading the David Hurn/Bill Jay book back when I was preparing a show called Ignoring Content, in which I stubbornly refused to allow subject matter to be what the pictures were about. I fully respected what the authors were saying, but it flew in the face of my working method at the time. And of course, the two images that sold the most were popular precisely because of the an element of content that struck a chord with viewers. Sigh.

Here in the UK, the 'primmer' pronunciation would definitely be understood as meaning more prim, as in prim and proper - unless the younger generation has adopted US practice while I wasn't paying attention. It's happened before.

The first paint coat and the first textbook sound the same here.

Hockney can be scathing about photography, but thought provoking nonetheless, and he is always interesting about the nature of picture making. I've read A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney a number of times now, and often dip into it.

I can confirm that, in a country where generations of schoolchildren converted "A Primer of Latin" into "A Primer of Eating" with a few deft penstrokes, no-one has ever pronounced the word "primer" as "primmer". It's an American thing.

Not unlike your pronounciation of "herb" as "erb", which is utterly bizarre to British ears.


[Yes, because of course no Britisher would ever drop 'is or 'er aitches! [VBG!] --Mike ]


Approaching Photography by Paul Hill is very good.

Primer as with the long i here in Australia and the UK and in Southern California too it seems. The OED allows both pronunciations.

I definitely second "Art and Fear" and "On Being a Photographer." My choice for your 5th book would be "Occam's Razor," by Bill Jay. As for Szarkowski's books, all I can say is that I have no respect for the judgement of someone who thinks that William Eggleston invented color photography.

This is one of my favorites, I still pick it up and re read it.

A comment about poetry and photography; I was reading Charles Baudelaire (french poet) "Les fleurs du mal" and I found these verses, which I think are useful for us :

"Comme un beau cadre ajoute à la peinture,
Bien qu'elle soit d'un pinceau très-vanté,
Je ne sais quoi d'étrange et d'enchanté
En l'isolant de l'immense nature,

They can probably be translated by:

"As a beautiful frame add to a painting,
although she is coming from an admired painter,
something strange and amazing
while insulating her from the vast nature

I'm so sorry for the poor translation.

And I completely agree with your inspiration. The mind process is very similar.

'Primer' with a short 'i'? Really? Whatever is conventional in the United States that is certainly not correct in UK. Years ago, when compulsory Latin was common in schools one of the earliest textbooks one tended to own was Kennedy's Shorter Latin Primer and so learning to pronounce that word correctly came early (from the age of 9 or 10 for many). Since I'm still interested in Latin (though not particularly good at it) I have a copy to this day, though not my original one of 68 years ago. Thanks Ed for an interest URL.

TOP is itself an excellent book on photography, smeared out over the course of years and countless pageviews.

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