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Thursday, 28 February 2019


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Edward Weston - DAYBOOKS - I love the Story and People in his life as well as the Photographs.

My recommendation is definitely Portraits by Steve McCurry. I absolutely adore the book and shaped my photography immensely.


"...an important friend who was building a personal photo library of, say, 500 to 1,500 books, ..."

So the goal is to acquire a library, not a photo collection, right?

Then the choice is pretty easy:

"The Photobook: A History" by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, Volumes 1, 2, and 3.

Tell your friend not to cheap-out. Buy all three while s/he can. To the extent that a definitive reference of notable photobooks exists this is it.

Failing that, there is no single photo book I could tell such a person to buy, at least not without further guidance on objectives.

The two most valuable (to me) photo books in my small collection would the "The Americans" (Robert Frank) and "In the American West" (Richard Avedon). The third "must have" for me is the Avedon Autobiography.

I've owned several copies of "Looking at Photographs" but have always ended up giving them away to photographs just getting started on the history of photography.

And, of course, any street photographer should own and often refer to "The Decisive Moment." (HCB)

Uncommon Places by Stephen Shore.

Minamata, by W. Eugene Smith and Aileen M. Smith. Because photographs can make a difference.

I think I'd go with my first book, Newhall's The History Of Photography.

It was the ur text of Photo One at MCAD.

Wild Goose & Riddon by Chris Chapman

Examples: the Making of 40 Photographs by Ansel Adams.

The technology is different but the stories of how he made them can still teach much. That many of the images he chose to talk about are much less well know ones is an added bonus - he's a much better portrait photographer than many realize for example.

The ones I have and love the most:

Cowboy Kate & Other Stories (Director's Cut). Sam Haskins. Rizzoli.

Jeanloup Sieff. Taschen.

Sail Leiter. Kehrer.

Hans Feurer. Damiani.

The above implies no order of affection; it's just a matter of mood at the time of taking one from the shelf.

One I would love to have but can't afford:

The Fashion Photographs. Deborah Turbeville.

Had I the funds, photo books would become my passion.


James Nachtwey - Inferno.

Naomi Rosenblum's A World History of Photography was a recent revelation for me. It is, to be completely honest, leagues better than the Newhall's book (which is more or less the standard), and also has a tremendous number of good pictures in it to look at!

There are so many but one of my favorites is Mitch Epstein's Family Business. A great photo book but also much more.

L.A. punk hotographerr Edward Colver has a good book, probabely out of print.

Rather than a book *about* photography I suggest a book *of* photography, The Romance Industry by John Gossage. Anyone with the means to purchase that many books is likely to obtain all the classics (The Americans, American Pictures, Uncommon Places, Guide) but might overlook someone like Gossage, whom I happen to hold in the highest regard. His book The Pond is a classic too, but of all the books of his I own the one I return to over and over again is The Romance Industry.

I'm quite fond of Stephen Shore's Uncommon Places, and William Eggleston's Guide.

That book is in our collection, thanks to the woman who I married 36 years ago. Am I a lucky guy, or what?

Interesting question. I've read quite some books about photography, starting from Bruce Barnbaum's books over e.g. Thoughts on Landscape by Frank Gohlke and Robert Adams' Beauty in Photography to the mentioned Photographie und Gesellschaft by Gisele Freund. I even made it three quarters through Camera Lucida.

Frankly, I found none of them to be very interesting or inspiring.

I photograph the places and the environment around my home. What I find interesting is how we, as humans, perceive our environment. How come that we agree on certain scenery being "beautiful"? What is "Beauty" in the first place? What is a "Landscape"? What means "being at home" ("Heimat")? I find books that address these questions interesting. Apart from the basic text books about aesthetic theory and the theory of the Arts, there is for example Landscape and Memory by Simon Schama, or The Aesthetics of Environment by Arnold Berleant, or Man in the Landscape by Paul Shepard. Also, essays about places like Common Ground by Rob Cowen, or the essays by Roger Deakin and the classic, Thoreau's Walden. Interesting, too, is digging into the myths of mankind to understand why we humans feel an affection towards certain landscapes like e.g. woodland or lakes.

I’ll give a plug for Early Work by HC-B, published by MOMA, because I was looking at a friend’s copy only this morning. Personally, I reckon that his place amongst the greats is assured even if we restricted ourselves to looking at his output prior to WW2.

Another plug for Early Colour by Saul Leiter.

Also, I urge anyone who can to look at the BBC documentary on Don McCullin called Searching for England.

I would recommend, Journeys Into the Wild: The Photography of Peter Dombrovskis. This is a wonderful collection of Peter Dombrovskis' work as a photographer of the Tasmanian wilderness and an inspiring example of the craft. Even though it is 200 pages, it's only 30 Australian dollars - that's about 5 American cents these days... no, really... ;-)

Hmmm. Recollections by John Sexton for the sheer quality, or Here Far Away by Pentti Sammallahti to illustrate what a range of things photography can do in the hands of one master practitioner. Oh wait, that's two, better stop now before I mention Michael Kenna and Sasha Gusov.

I have, and enjoy, a couple of other books by John Szarkowski -- books that show his own work as a photographer rather than as a critic and curator: From before his stint at MOMA, The idea of Louis Sullivan (1956), has some fine and perceptive architectural photography. After MOMA he published Mr Bristol's Barn: with excerpts from Mr Blinn's diary (1997) in which he puts his recent photographs of an old barn beside entries from a nineteenth-century farmer's diary. In both of these Szarkowski comes across as a photographer with a quiet, refined and meditative eye.

Any book same John Szarkowski, on or by Eugene Atget or MOMA HCB BOOK.


No question about it: my choice would be "American Photographs" by Walker Evans. It may well be the most important photographic book of the 20th Century.

Galen Rowell, Mountain Light

Occam's Razor, a collection of essays by Bill Jay. These days, when everybody and his uncle is or presumes to be an Artist (capital A), I would particularly recommend the essay Confessions of an Artisan.

“The New Color Photography” by Sally Eauclaire.

So many choices....but if limited to just one, I would recommend Aperture Magazine Anthology - The Minor White Years 1952-1976. A wealth of essays, worth visiting time and again.

East 100th Street - Bruce Davidson

My favorite visual art format is a well printed/produced photography book. My Favorite photography book of all time is one I picked up in 1991 by Irving Penn: "Passage. A Work Record"

The most-read volume on my photo shelves is Ivor Matanle's Collecting and Using Classic Cameras. It has been my bible since I bought bought the first hard-cover edition of 1986. The paperback edition is still in print.

The illustrations predominately show cameras, but each chapter has several pages of photos taken with the best of the bodies and lenses.

[I really like that book too. It's like the soul of a photo geek, distilled. Since photo geeks are people like me, and that I like, it's a pleasure to "chat" with Ivor and follow him as he takes his pleasure with his/our hobby. --Mike]

There are logs of interesting choices already. Maybe you could run this twice; once for books where the message is conveyed mainly through text, such as Why People Photograph, by Robert Adams, and then again where the message is conveyed by images. My suggestion falls in the images category.

There are good instructional books, and good anthologies, but I'd recommend a book that was more a study of a specific place or theme. I love landscape photography, which makes up a lot of what I shoot. But I'm picking Richard Nickel's Chicago. Subtitled Photographs of a Lost City.

I grew up in Chicago, on the northwest edge of the city, not downtown, but Richard captured a lot what I felt about the city during the 1960s and '70s. Wonderful beauty fading, some of it desecrated, some being wantonly torn apart for "development." To be sure, not all the new development was or is awful. Yet it's still the case that a lot of great buildings are now gone.

Richard provided a poignant record of some of the marvelous buildings that once graced the city. The book is a great example of what photography can do, of why it matters.

Any recopilation of Eugene Smith's work

NASA's new Earth book:


Masahisa Fukase, The Solitude of Ravens. But not the 2017 MACK edition.

I was a great admirer of this book long before it became the photobook of the century, or whatever nonsense BJP declared it. I even managed to sit with Fukase in his hispital bed for a few hours months before he died.


First light, by Joe Cornish

The Americans (Robert Frank), Early Color (Saul Leiter), Diane Arbus: A box of 10 photographs (Diane Arbus), Los Alamos Revisited (William Eggleston, Here Far Away (Pentti Sammallahti).

I have always found Szarkowski to be singularly unpalatable, both as a curator and as a photographer.

My first great inspiration in photography was a book titled "New Guide to Rollei Photography," by Fritz Henle, which I found in the Miami, FL library in 1969. I have most of his books, and he continues to inspire. Other photographers who inspire are Elliot Erwitt, whom I consider the greatest photographer of the 20th century and head and shoulders above Cartier-Bresson as an observer of human life (aka "street photographer"); Richard W. Brown, and the late, great B.A. "Tony" King.

Don't have one to recomend. The number of books in my photo library has one zero less than the one of my secret friend (i.e. 50 - 150). I carefully select my photo books so I don't regret the purchase later, although sometimes I have failed badly. I have "Looking at Photographs" and I like it, but to some is not a good book. The same happens with the other books of my collection, to some, some of them are excellent, to others, the same books are just OK or junk. And the same happens with my photography, to some I'm an excellent amateur photographer (I'm not including members of my familiy in this set), to others I'm just OK, and I'm shure that to the rest (a vast majority) my photography in general stinks. They don't tell me, but from their attitude I can smell it. So, in art in general, I don't recommend anything. I also don't give prints of my work as presents, I did it in the past and seldom saw one of them hanged. Through the years I learned to enjoy photography as a way to express something of me that is imposible to say in words, and just for the people that wants to catch it.
I just declare my preference here, is not a recommendation. Of the many artist that form my collection (including: Mary Ellen Mark, Arbus, Lange, Ruth Bernhard, Eve Arnold, V. Mayer, E. Smith, Adams, the Westons, Frank, Kenna, P. Sammallahti, Sternfeld, Shore, Meyerowitz, D. Brown, R. Gibson, M. Yamamoto, H. Watanabe, etc. etc. etc.) I'm quite fond to the photography of the russian Alexander Rodchenko.

The ambiguity of your question just struck me. If I had to choose just one book about photography then I agree with Kenneth Tanaka, The Photobook: A History" by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, Volumes 1, 2, and 3.

I would go with the single volume version of John Szarkowski’s “Atget”. There are four more volumes in the series, but providing just one isn’t in conflict with the rules, plus it is the one I return to most often. My joy here is in two parts—the Atget pictures of course, but also in the illuminations provided by John Szarkowski. Photography today is vibrating in so many directions and possibilities it can be hard to see the foundation. The pictures and insights here are timeless.

"Cafe Lehmitz" by Anders Petersen.

Women Are Beautiful by Gary Winogrand, for both Gary’s photographs and the essay by Helen Gary Bishop.

I've recommended Looking at Photographs in the past, as a great (if dated) overview of art photography and an example of critical appreciation. But because we're building a library, I might choose instead William Eggleston's Guide or The Americans (Robert Frank), being excellent, iconic, and affordable examples of monographs.

But oops! others have already recommended these books to my important friend, so I'll move on to one of several books by Josef Koudelka, or perhaps Lodima Press's E. Weston 50th Anniversary portfolio, Robert Adams' Beauty in Photography, or (not for everyone) Stephen Shore's The Nature of Photographs.

Ueda by Shoji Ueda. A wonderful Japanese photographer who lived near the Tottori sand dunes. The dunes form the backdrop of some of his more popular work. Also second Saul Leiter for Early Colour.

I recently found a copy of this book at a used book fair for $3.00. What a steal. It is now one of favorite photography books. I look at it almost every day.

"Light, Gesture, and Color" by Jay Maisel

A book from an European point of view: "Bord de Mer" by Gabriele Basilico.
Images of the French shores taken more than 30 years for the mythical Mission Photografique de la DATAR.
It has been reprinted last year so it should be easily available.

i'd recommend a book that showed photograph after photograph with clear printing, beautiful use of light, and tableaux that would knock someone's socks off and make them ask how the photographer could possibly manage to achieve all that in a battlefield situation? For that reason I recommend 'Vietnam' by Larry Burrows.

Photographers on Photography by Nate Lyons. My first introduction to seeing rather than just taking a photograph.

Weston's Daybooks and Weston: Fifty Years for sure. Those two, Frank's Americans and Bill Owen's Suburbia, all played an influential role in my initial interest in photography. Actually still do influence me even nearly fifty years later.

Narrowing down to one is difficult (if not impossible) for a photography bibliophile. I have three suggestions:

Bystander: A History of Street Photography by Colin Westerbeck & Joel Meyerowitz

GENESIS by Sebastião Salgado

Magnum Contact Sheets by Kristen Lubben

The following half-dozen books are longtime favorites of mine:

* Ernst Haas Color Photography
* Photography and the Art of Seeing by Freeman Patterson
* Seeing Gardens by Sam Abell
* Wilderness Scenario: Peaceful Images of the Wild by Pat O'Hara
* Huangshan: The Yellow Mountain by Michael Kenna
* Here Far Away by Pentti Sammallahti

August Sander: People of the 20th Century. I think, today.

Walker Evans, The Lost Work. Arena Editions: Santa Fe NM (2000). With texts by Clark Wordswick and Belinada Rathbone.

I love Evans, for me he defines photography.

This is a remarkable selection of less well-known photographs by Evans, including many portraits from his personal circle. The editors are eager to de-emphasise the established Evans work from the 1930s, but the book does contain a lot of classical Evans, and I would not hesitate to recommend this as a first introduction for someone who has yet to meet Evans.

A true treasure trove: a beautiful portrait of Robert Frank (along with "portraits" of Frank's barn in Nova Scotia); magical impressions of Jane Evans and Isabelle Evans; clandestine street photography; and of course all those facades and interiors revealing the secrets of their inhabitants.

All of this spans across Evan's entire lifetime, and the selection subtly reveals the common themes and threads, giving coherence to the journey. Excellent editorial texts by Wordswick and Rathborn.

Out of print but available second-hand. I have the first edition (my wife found it for very little money in 2004), and in that edition the printing is excellent.

Extraordinary Circumstances by David Hume Kennerly. It's not a book about photography so much as an excellent example of deep documentary photography and excellent visual storytelling during Kennerly's years as President Ford's White House photographer.

Interesting you should bring this up, and choose this book. I too would recommend Looking at Photographs as the first book in a serious photo book collection. Yes, it is dated: the most recent photograph is from 1969, and there is no color. But it offers a diverse set of photographs to study, and one will learn a great deal about the history and art of photography. Someone with the perception and writing skills of Szarkowski should write a follow-up starting about 1960.

On my website I have brief reviews of some of my favorite photo books.

I feel like the sensible answer should be a collection of photos by different photographers. But for me it would be 'Early Color' by Saul Leiter.

I live next door to a small local bookstore. Someone there appreciates photobooks and always has a nice selection of used ones on the shelf. Whenever I see one with "Steidl" on the spine, I nab it. Books published by Steidl always have something interesting in them.

I would recommend any Lee Freidlander book, from the small single subject monographs to the giant retrospective from a while back. Every time I leaf through one of them I am both humbled and reenergized.

Glancing at my shelf, out of the 100 or so photobooks I have, David Heath's book you recommended, Marc Riboud's book Visions of China, and Jerome Liebling's book The People, Yes all stand out.

I own probably 2/3 of the photobooks mentioned by others here. Books about and by photographers are beginning to dominate the decor of my house to the point my wife is becoming a bit perturbed. So I've decided to slow down the book-buying for a while.

Honestly, I don't think it's possible for me to pick a single book--there are too many great ones. If my life depended on it, I might grit my teeth and say the 4-volume Atget set from MOMA only because it's a starting point for modern photography (at least in my opinion). I think someone has said, as photographers, we are all children of Atget. If no one has, someone should have.

After Atget, I would go with books by or about Walker Evans, HCB, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, William Eggleston and the hundreds of others along the same linage. Admittedly, I'm old and old fashioned in my photographic preferences for modernist photographers over post modern conceptualists.

I cannot believe nobody said "August Sander: People of the 20th Century".
So I have to recommend it.

I go back to Pentii Sammallahti's 'here far away' time and time again. Thanks to you for that!

Happy to see someone mention "Mountain Light" by Galen Rowell. The photos inspire me and the stories entertain me, as most of his books do. I have always thought of it as a book about photography rather than a traditional "Photo Book" though. I would probably choose Eliot Porter's "The Place No One Knew". I guess I like to know what the story is behind the pictures, or at least that there is one.

I have several of Adams's books as well as some about him. There are three by Galen Rowell, and three by John Fielder in the "guide" or "fundamentals" category, along with a substantial coffee table book of his black and white images. All are good, informative, challenging -- even inspirational -- but the one volume I'd grab in the event of a fire is a marvelous collection of photos from around the world, titled "The Sea" by Philip Plisson. It's a huge book 11.5" x 14.5" and, with the full bleed printing, many scenes are nearly two feet wide! There are many mesmerizing two-page essays by the photographer. It is an amazing look at his incredible output, all shot with a variety of film cameras from land, air and on boats. But beware: following its success, publishers cobbled together lesser images with economy printing/binding to hit a lower price point, and the smaller books' results were mediocre. "The Sea" is out of print, so it would have to be found by a reseller, but it is so worth it. I got a back-up copy a few years ago.

My fav? Which day of the week? Morning or afternoon? Or night? My point is that it varies. The most important influences always have been the subject, approach, and effects that I’m after in my own own shooting. When it’s all almost over I might look back and realize the exceptional importance of a few titles. But I’m not there yet.

These days I’m hot for forest interiors, but the book I keep thinking about is
A Home in the World: Houses and Cultures. The text is by Martine and Caroline Laffon, and the 150 photographs are by many photographers. The photographs explore intimate spaces and their settings in a way that fires my imagination and empathy. I want some of that in my own work.

Sacred Encounters, East and West
by Marcia Lippman
Edition Stemmle

Books multiply (and deaccessioning is hard). They also develop meta-levels, since there are books about books that also demand attention. At the meta-level, Parr and Badger's three books on Photobooks are endlessly fascinating. Aperture produces, several times a year, a broadsheet on photobooks. Some of the text is unreadable artspeak, but the descriptions of the actual books are endlessly fascinating. I don't know of a bookstore where one can sit and browse them -- that's the critical missing point. Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA is the best I can come up with. There have been interesting compilations and overviews of street photography, of which Bystander, by Westerbeck and Meyerowitz, is the greatest. I understand it was recently revised and updated somewhat.

I was in Chicago for a few years at the very end of the '60s, excited about photography in the time of the Democratic convention and the Chicago Seven, and also getting started on a scientific career. This was the time and place that formed Danny Lyon. So I look at Lyons from BikeRiders and Conversations with the Dead through The Seventh Dog, postcards from a path not taken.

Unfortunately, as I look at the current collection, I doubt that it contains any photographer under 50, but it gives me a lot to look over, and stimulus to go out and shoot more myself.

Mine. :-)

I agree with Kenneth:
"The Photobook: A History" by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, Volumes 1, 2, and 3.

I had these as my Christmas present a few years ago.

"Lillian Bassman: Women" gorgeous book of Ms. Bassman's work -- her singularly intimate fashion photography of the 40s-60s, and her recent high-contrast Photoshop manipulations of her earlier work (what was salvaged after she destroyed much of her earlier negatives) done in her 90s.

I've always been a fan of Terry Barrett's Criticizing Photographs. Writing meaningfully about photography is a skill which requires much practice and Barrett's book is a practical guide for getting started.
I recently got around to start reading Beaumont Newhall and am so far unimpressed. I first read his autobiography which was written competently, but it has a rather child-like character. I then picked up a copy of Masters of Photography written by Beaumont and Nancy Newhall and I thought the writing was atrocious for a couple who had been so influential. I would be interested in your thoughts on them.

I've always been a fan of Terry Barrett's Criticizing Photographs. Writing meaningfully about photography is a skill which requires much practice and Barrett's book is a practical guide for getting started.
I recently got around to start reading Beaumont Newhall and am so far unimpressed. I first read his autobiography which was written competently, but it has a rather child-like character. I then picked up a copy of Masters of Photography written by Beaumont and Nancy Newhall and I thought the writing was atrocious for a couple who had been so influential. I would be interested in your thoughts on them.

Those I keep in easy reach: Fan Ho (Hong Kong Yesterday), David Brookover (The Road), NIck Brandt's 3-volumes from Africa, Keith Carter (Twenty-Five Years), Joe Cornish (This Land), Michael Kenna (Twenty Year Retrospective), Gregory Heisler (50 Portraits), Paul Hart (Truncated)

"Pictures From The Country" by Richard W. Brown. A brilliantly concise, simple and lucid discussion about capturing images.

Explorations by Ray McSavaney.

Time in New England by Paul Strand.

BTW, Just as there is no such thing as TWO rabbits,
there is no such thing as ONE book,
I am in the midst of packing to move (again!) and have tried paring my collection, not to one, but to one shelf.
It is impossible!!

Alec Soth, Niagara. This is one of three books that have had the most impact on me when reading them, the other two being Annie Leibovitz, American Music, and Michael Kenna, Hokkaido.

Mirrors,Messages,and Manifestations...by Minor White.......changed my life,and my photography.....next Weston's Daybooks......and finally, Frederick Sommer....by Yale University Press....

For colour and whimsy: "You look at me like an emergency" by Cig Harvey (2012).

Elliott Erwitt: Personal Exposures.

Not that anyone cares, but I got two Robert Adams books confused. I actually wanted to recommend "Why People Photograph" but wrote "Beauty in Photographay", which I've never read. For all I know the latter is just as worthy, but "Why" is a gem.

Without hesitation: "Journey to Nowhere" by Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson, because it explains how we ended up here, all the way back in 1985.

Out of print, some copies still available on amazon at improbably expensive markups.

"Son of a Bit" by Uchihara (digital)
"Spider's Strategy" by Kanemura

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