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Tuesday, 09 April 2019


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I have "professionally skimmed" Newhall. Meaning I didn't read every single word and citation, and not all at one sitting, but read it seriously enough to digest it.

I have always maintained that the best cure for insomnia is art criticism books, and second to that art history books (text parts).

Yes, big on history of photography. Listening to Stieglitz biography “Foresome” currently.

No. Seems like every day I discover new things that I haven't done yet.

Yes, Rosenblum's, A World History of Photography.



Yes....a couple, over the years, by different authors..

Many histories and many monographs. I have a large collection of photo books.

For reasons that now escape me, I've read both the first and fifth editions of Newhall. Also various random books and articles on things like the history of lens design, the Photo-Secession, and other topics. I wouldn't say I know very much about any of it, though.

Yes - “A World History of Photography “ by Naomi Rosenblum, Abbeville Press from 1984. It’s been a long time, but this has prompted me to pull it off the shelf and put it into rotation.

Yes, I have always been interested in the history of photography. (And the history of lots of other things. I like to understand how we got to where we are.) In fact, I wrote an extended essay on the history of photography for my high school history teacher, when he asked each of us to choose and complete a project for the end of our year. I don't think he liked mine very much as he had no interest in the subject – he was more into the napoleonic wars and 19th century British politics.

That was back in 1966! 😳. Of course there was a lot less history of photography to know about back then!


Yes, several.

Yes, two or three of them, one rather too technical for me.

I believe I have... but my own history is often as fuzzy as my recall of photographic history.


Yes, probably too many.
I started years ago with Beaumont Newhall's standard History of Photography. This is best paired with A.D. Coleman's brilliant essay Conspicuous By His Absence. Coleman details how Newhall and his circle (including Ansel Adams) systematically purged any mention of prominent photographer and teacher William Mortensen from photographic publications and histories. This was ostensibly due to Mortensen's tacky soft-core nudes, but mainly served to enforce Newhall's and Adams's vision of 'straight' photography. They regarded Mortensen's heavily manipulated images as illegitimate, and so they expunged his work and teaching root and branch. This taught me just how much the popular or mainstream histories of photography are exactly like a photograph; what has been cropped out and excluded from the frame is as interesting as what's permitted.

Yes! My favorites are Roger Cicala's.

I've just finished "A Century of Colour Photography " by Pamela Roberts. I liked it.

Yes, and including a history of digital photography (up to about 2005 [give or take 3 yrs], when the book was published).

Until I began a BA (UK - degree course) in photography I didn't encounter any photography history to speak of. Now I do, a lot. It has broadened my knowledge of photography but has done little to augment my understanding of photographs because the actual contents of the frame are rarely addressed.

Another effect has been to subdue my urge to take pictures; the ideas aren't good enough, don't form a coherent series, aren't arty enough... I used to be a happy photographer producing lots of inconsequential tat; now my meagre output is accompanied by endless photo-anguish!

I bought the 2 Keith Davis Hallmark books you nicely helped make available not long ago. I open the big "American Century" volume from time to time and "thumb" through a few pages. I just can't gulp down a big book like that in one sitting or even in a bunch of scheduled sessions. I just gotta do it randomly when I feel like it. And I sheepishly admit to not having unwrapped the 2nd volume yet. So grading on the curve for old age, I give myself a "C-", if these qualify as "history". A "C-" is in-between a yes & no :-)

Yes. As technology advanced, the business and art of photography changed. It always has and ever shall be.

Yes. A couple, in fact.

Well, yes. Lots of them, in fact. I think it's really important to know the history of the medium you work in.

A long time ago - in the mid-1970s, when I was getting deeply involved with photography - I read the Newhalls' "The History of Photography ". And a few years ago I bought Westerbeck and Meyerowitz's "Bystander: A History of Street Photography" and read parts of it. Mostly, though, I've learned about photographic history by reading monographs about particular photographic artists.

A World History of Photography by Naomi Rosenblum


Yes! I enjoy learning about the historical significance of artworks in general.

I have a dozen or so in my book collection; many more if I count books on museum or personal collections, for example the massive book from the Gilman Paper Company collection. I’ve enjoyed them all starting in the 70’s, helping to give context to and to inform and influence my own approach to the field.




No. But I have the BBC series "The Genius of Photography." The only problem with the dvd is it only works in america if your dvd player ignores the country zone bs.

I was able to use the dvd player in my older laptop. The new one has no dvd player.


Yes, indeed.

I took a year-long series of college classes in the history of photography. We used Rosenblum's "A World History of Photography", and Jonathan Green's "A Critical History of American Photography", plus other assigned readings from the university library.

I've accumulated about half-dozen other photo history books since then, including some specialized books like Michael Carlebach's "The Origins of Photojournalism in America".

Does this count as a book?


Or this a history?


Probably neither qualify, but I found them useful, especially the latter

Yes. More than one.

Yes. Several of them.

Years ago I read Beaumont Newhall's "History of Photography". Most recently the three volume "Photography at MOMA". And numerous ones in between. An old favorite is "ICP Encyclopedia of Photography" which includes history with technical entries.

My main interests lie in 20th Century photography, less in the early history.


Yes, even going back to image projections (camera obscura) thousands of years ago.


Just pieces from here and there.

I don't think I have read much that would count as "history of photography" in the strict sense, narrating and perhaps explaining how this part of human activity has evolved. Nor have I read too much of "philosopy of photography", those texts just don't speak to me.

But I have always enjoyed reading reflections by practising photographers, either on their own photography or on the nature of photography. And most of the major photgraphers have produced such reflections, so there is a rich field from which to harvest. Somewhere in my house there is a battered copy of an old paperback "Classic Essays on Photography" (edited by Alan Trachtenberg) that has many of the early essays, Talbot, Emerson, up to Strand and Weston: those early texts really have a lot of insight.

I recently read the last edition of Beaumont Newhall's History of Photography. I thought it provided a good example of why professors should not be permitted to peddle their textbooks to their students. I put a brief review on my blog (https://connealy.blogspot.com/2019/03/newhalls-history.html).

Yes, many of them. I have hundreds of books on the history of photography, photography criticism, the relationship between photography and other art forms, and on individual photographers.

Of the 3000 or so books I own, about 1/4 of them are about the history of photography. The rest? mostly books on non-art-related history. My main areas of interest are Russia, the Balkans, and the Middle East. I also have a large collection of Russian literature.

Yes, The Short Story of Photography: A Pocket Guide to Key Genres, Works, Themes & Techniques by Ian Haydn Smith. Picked it up in Paris last fall. Very useful overview.

Oh, definitely! I'm greatly inspired by historical styles and techniques and I frequently read up on the history of photography -- and art in general -- both online and in books, quite a few of which I own.

I'm pretty sure that I once did, but it would have been over 40 years ago. That's how I found out about the likes of Daguerre and Fox Talbot, which is why once, when on holiday with my parents in my mid-late teens, I dragged them to an exhibition of Fox Talbot's work, which was stunning.

Sitting at my bedside I have a copy of Kingslake's A History of the Photographic Lens, which I've read cover-to-cover once, and now just dip into for fun. I've always been a lens nerd, which is why I take exception to Sony/Zeiss slapping the names "Tessar" or "Sonnar" on zoom lenses that don't remotely have the optical formulae that the names imply.


Beaumont Newhall comes to mind. So, yes.

Yes, several, art history and my personal collection.

Several ones, though no new ones lately.

You just got me to go to my bookshelf and pull out “Fox Talbot and the invention of photography” - when we downsized during the move from the farm to the city, I gave the other books on Kodak, the development of cameras, etc. to our kids the collectors/hoarders...

Yes. Besides the usual suspects a recent treat was The Met's Monumental Journey - The Daguerreotypes of Girault de Prangey, which had beautiful 1:1 color reproductions of the original Daguerreotypes. De Pangey spent 3 years from 1842 travelling Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon, photographing ancient structures. Makes me ashamed to complain about how much my current backpack weighs.

Yes….but the closest thing to a history that I still own is a 1988 copy of LIFE Magazine’s 150 Years of Photography. The print quality isn’t the best but it’s well done considering the space constraints they were under. It’s amazing how many great images are crammed into this one issue. The index page is printed on Daguerre’s first image of a person in 1839 and LIFE’s reference to the current tech of the day is a short piece called The Future which details the new Canon still video camera (RC760 $5000) being used by LIFE photographers at a track meet in L.A. Using an analog phone connection it took 18 minutes for each color image to arrive in New York.

This magazine is still available on Amazon for just a couple of bucks which seems like a deal to me. It’s an interesting CliffsNotes version of history c.1988. When I flipped the magazine open today it fell to the milestones section where I saw the plane crash photo that began the era of the Associated Press Wirephoto, an Arthur Fellig shot of street corner murder witnesses, a mention of the use of microfilm in delivering WWII GI V-mail, Bresson’s “The decisive moment”, and a nude of Marilyn Monroe. There’s a piece near the end called Cherished Moments where 10 writers very briefly discuss their favorite family snapshot. Hunter Thompson’s snap is innocuous enough but the text features a drug overdose, a murder by ambush relating to a motorcycle gang speed war, and the opinion that criminals and politicians differ only in what they wear and where they take lunch. Now that’s history.

Yes — The Story of Art by Ernst Gombrich.

No, and I’m not interested since it doesn’t lead to understanding what the future will bring.

In the early 1970s, while living in New Zealand, I got the photo bug, bad. My "bible" was the Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, the 1969 Desk Edition (1699 pages). It would take a lifetime to read all the articles but I looked at most of them. One entry, "PRINTING PROCESSES (OBSOLETE)," describes Calotype, Fluorotype, Cyanotype, the Pellet Process, Ferro-Gallic Papers, Albumen Prints, Argentotype, Palladiotype, Uranium Printing, Pigment Printing, the Artigue Process, Oil Printing, Chromotype, Breath Printing [!], Diazotype, and Pinatype.

Thanks for the reminder, Mike -- I will now thumb through those pages again, for the first time in years.

Yes, I read the Newhall book; but don't test me on it.


But I know a fair amount about the history, because I have a weakness for old photography books written in the 1940s or 50s. I also have a No. 2 Brownie camera, and looking at how it works and reading the (online!) instruction manual tells me a lot about amateur photography in the early 1900s. I also know of an old photographer's studio that still has a North light window, and what that window is for.

One of the old books I own is The All in One Camera Book:

Have I read a comprehensive history like Newhall? No. I have read many other sources that cover periods and technological advances. I know something about Fenton, Curtis, Cameron. I've read biographies of Stieglitz, Strand, Cunningham, Weston, Adams, Mann, and probably some others I'm not remembering. I've read about critical theory. I've tried to read Barthes without much success.

In summary, I consider myself reasonably knowledgeable about the history of photography. To a limit.

Beumont Newhall is the essential starting place, though his book doesn't go up to the modern, "new documents" era or photographers. He will get you up on your early wet processes and art vs business movements, and he knew the 20th century pioneers - Adams, Weston, Strand, Steiglitz,- personally. He was the Harvard guy who first thought to collect old photographs and study the movements and masters of the 19th century. I took his classes in the 70's at University of New Mexico.I was 24 and thought photography was Annie Leibovitz in Rolling Stone. He showed me what my eyes are for. So I'm a Newhall guy.

Yes! Histories of photography, and of photographers. I have great respect for where we've come from, in all things.

Yes. Newhall's and Rosenblum's. (I also own a third but haven't read it.) Both are, ahem, entertaining as well as informative.

Time Life series on Photography and other publications.


Everything Roger Cicala write on his blog about that... A pity it is not categorized so it's difficult to link and retrieve.

As for reading a book specifically on the topic "the history of photography," no. But I have read some of this topic on the web over the years, including the history of the first photograph and associated links with that site. Instead, I tend to more focus on reading the history of photographers. This includes many titles including, in no particular order, Alfred Stieglitz Camera Works (Dover), Henri Cartier-Bresson (Abrams Discoveries), F. Jay Haynes Photographer (Montana Historical Society Press - a fascinating read and likely my favorite on this list!); William H. Jackson (Amos Carter Museum, Morgan & Morgan - pairs nicely with the Haynes volume); Supreme Instants: The Photography of Edward Weston (NYGS); Matthew Brady (Crescent - wonderful historical portraits and Civil War photos); Edward S. Curtis Visions of the First Americans (Chartwell Books - another of my "most favorite" on this list); the Dorthy Lange, George N. Barnard, and three other Hallmark books you made available a while back; and Ansal Adams' autobiography plus maybe a dozen other of his books, plus some others on my only two and half shelves of photo books. So, yes, I have read a bit on the history of photography but not the "History of Photography."

Yes. At least two. I don't recall offhand which two. I think one was in connection with an art history course in college.

Yes I have; it was an exhaustive history pre-digital, but so long ago now I don’t recall title or author. As a child I only looked at the photos in books. As an adult, I thoroughly read everything I could get my hands on regarding photography; now in late middle age, I’m back to just looking at the photos.

Some/several/many. Haven't gotten through Gernsheim yet, though.

Yes. As a boy. I don't recall the title. It may have been part of a series. I was especially fascinated by a page about Fox Talbot's window.

I love most art history books. Including photography.


I have the "500 cameras" book. Does that count? After all you recommended it. 8^)

Is a history of cameras a history of photography?

I also have a biography of Lewis Carrol, who was an early photographer.

I've read Jeffrey's 'Photography A Concise History'. Can't remember anything about it: Dull, dull, dull like most writing on the visual arts by art academics ( very few of whom have any idea how to do the thing they're writing about: How the hell can you be an expert on something you can't do? ).

Art practitioners who can write a bit are much more interesting.

Try this:


Has photography even been around long enough to justify writing a history about it?

Yes, but it's been a while since I read one book or article solely on the broader subject. I have picked up bits and pieces of historical photography related content on web sites, through documentaries, and online courses as well.

Currently going through Bystander by Westerbeck & Meyerowitz.

I have many history of photography books, from Szarkowski, Frizot, Adams, Strand, Weston...

When I decided to engage in photography on 2011, I went nuts and read everything I could find on the subject, including "The Genius of Photography", by Gerry Badger. The subtitle is "How photography changed our lives". Sometimes it's easy to miss the impact of new technology in our lives and our world. Not with big things, like electricity, the automobile, airplanes, radio or the telephone, but tech we now take for granted and barely notice, such as records/CDs, VCRs, refrigerators, microwave ovens, cameras, without considering the immense impact it has had on the world.

I've heard it said that technology introduced to the world before a person reaches the age of 16 is not even considered "technology" by that person as an adult. For me, born in 1957, that meant cars, radio, supermarkets, plastic wrap, reel-to-reel recording, and the convenience of SLRs, Instamatics and polaroids. My adult children have never known a world without computer games, mobile phones, the internet, downloading and streaming, satellites, the convenience of digital photography and so on. And one day, their children see as commonplace - mobile computing, internet of things, cancer cures, pleasure trips to space, only electric cars, only renewable energy, full body tattoos on the elderly.

Required for my BFA degree was the history by B. Newhall, only later did I learn of his bent towards creating his own history eliminating some major players.

Unfortunately I don't know of any book on the history of photography. All my information on the subject was gathered from old readings - from encyclopediae to newspaper articles - and the internet. I expect to get some references from the comments that will follow, though...

Yes, I've read some histories of photography.

The history tells me that making photographs has become much easier over time. It has also provided lots of examples and ensured there's a lot more experience in the world that I can draw on to help me make a good photograph. I don't think I've done that yet but I've made a few photographs I consider reasonable. And history tells me that making a truly original photo is getting harder because other people got there before me with a lot of original ideas so it's getting harder to be truly original.

I took a semester long class on the history of photography taught by David Vestal in the mid 70s. We used the Newhall tome as reference. I have also mostly read Naomi Rosenblum's "A World History of Photography".

maybe this might interest you?
BBC pod on the invention of photography:

Beaumont Newhall's "History of Photography" may be the place to start this conversion, and yes, it's on my library shelf, but IMHO, if you really want to learn about a particular era of photography, acquire books and magazines that were contemporaneous to the era you'd like to know more about. For example, I able to fully reenact the process of wet collodion ambrotypes, tintypes, and negatives by reading J. Towler's "The Silver Sunbeam" first edition 1864 and also Edward M. Estabrooke's "The Ferrotype and how to make it", first published in 1872.

Transport yourself to the practices and concerns of the times you want to know about with books, magazines, and articles that were "how to" and "state of the art" guides in their day. The real history of photography is very well documented at every step along the way starting from photography's inception in the early 1800's.

YES! Many times. I'm also lucky enough to live in Austin, Texas with one if not the largest collections in the world of photography at the Harry Ransom Center. They even have what is viewed as the first photograph. I've had the pleasure of viewing many different exhibitions, one of which showed me that Panoramic, HDR, massive post editing and on are nothing new. They been done since the birth. I was also lucky enough to meet David - last name escapes me at this moment - who was a commercial photographer for over 65 years in Chicago and had collected a vast archive of many historical and professional photographers that had passed away. He had a printed pano a day after the Chicago fire that spanned about 80+ feet by 12+ or so. It was a real thrill to see both his work and and a extremely small part of his collection. Looking at history is a very good thing to learn from.


Yes, some. More chronological visual treatment than actually reading all the text.

Yes I have read and own a number of such books. I pose a related question. Has anyone ever taken a history of photography college course? I took one such at our local community college and found it to be the most enjoyable photography class I have ever taken. The instructor tied photography to what was happening in that period of time in fashion, music, politics, etc. Most interesting (to me).

Yes, among others, this was a very interesting read:

The Short Story of Photography by Ian Haydn Smith.


Yes, several, primarily from the UK

Not really. Most of the history I've gathered has come from reading about a specific photographer, time period, or type of equipment or photographic process.

I only slightly ashamedly admit I have "An American Century of Photography, From Dry-Plate to Digital" sitting on my bookshelf. I got it on your recommendation, but every time I pick it up I just don't get anywhere with it. I want to like it. The first few years of owning it I'd pick it up on occasion and read a tiny bit before finding myself skipping the text and only perusing the photographs. On the right rainy day, perhaps that book and I will connect.

The rest of my humble photography book library is mainly composed of TOP recommendations and I thoroughly enjoy them. So I don't blame the recommender for my lack of connection to An American Century of Photography!

I read own and occasionally still refer to Newhall’s history. It was the textbook for History of Photography class I took at the local community college. One of the experiences and books I’ve seen little economic but vast personal benefit from.

Yes, not surprising as I spent four years getting a degree at Ryerson University in Media Studies Photography (1979). I also bought the entire Time Life set of photo books in the 80's.
I also bought a lot of remandered photo books. Plus magazines... plus a darkroom...which I don't have anymore. Best book I read was a concise history of photography my father owned that featured some nudes. I was 14 at the time.

As a joke, I once gave my brother a book called "How To Be A Sensuous Man". He snorted and said "I could have written that". Even as old as I am there were things happening in photography before I was here. Read about it at https://www.britannica.com/technology/photography.

Please pardon my geek;

A History of the Photographic Lens
Rudolph Kingslake

The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes
Christopher James

Recently we had an Escher exhibition here at the National Gallery of Victoria (Australia) and that has started me on a bit of a historical examination of printmaking and the crossover to photography. Woodcut, Linocut, Lithography etc Fascinating and fun to do...

Always good to read you Michael


Yes. Both histories back to Daguerre, and sub-sections like the f64 movement, or Stieglitz. But then I also have a library of monographs by different photographers and a working darkroom. I think if you are really interested in a subject, that interest is multi-dimensional.

I read Newhall over the course of a year of history of photography. And a bunch of stuff from magazines, journals, and books like Weston's Daybooks.

Yes. 'Camera' by Gus McDonald. But then I worked for the publisher at the time ...

This was way back in the pre-digital era.

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