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Tuesday, 09 April 2019


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Yes - picked up a used copy of Beaumont Newhall's History of Photography from our local bookstore

Of course I read the Newhall Book. That's a good survey book. When you find an inspiring photograph you look for, find and absorb more of those photographs.

All of them, I think.

Yes, I've read The History of Photography by Beaumont Newhall. Also, parts of a few others.


Several, in fact. Though I guess some of them might be more accurately termed surveys. And rather than the History of Photography, another several dealt with a more limited scope of time and/or place (e.g., American Photography Since 1945, by Johnathan Green). Being a teacher, and an inveterate student, enamored with history and devoted to photography, I guess it’s inevitable.


A little

I have at least 15 general histories on photography and several special ones: e.g., French Calotypes, 19th century Dutch, etc. There are some 600 books on photography in my personal library. I seek out books where I have a print made by the photographer.

As a boy, I devoured the Time Life photography book series which covered a lot of it, waiting impatiently for each new volume to arrive approximately every other month.

Yes, I have read all or significant parts of Newhall (in three different editions), Gernsheim (in two editions), Eder, Storey, Taft, Rosenblum, Frizot, Braive, Jonathan Green, Volker Kahmen, Mary Warner Marien, Peter Pollack, Brian Coe, and many issues of History Of Photography magazine. These are the titles I can recall, or that are still in my library.

During my many years of being a photo dealer, building a large historical photo collection, and teaching history of photography (to say nothing of being a working photographer), I spent a great deal of time buried in these and many other books relating to photographers and photo history. Thank goodness the medium is only 180 years old!

I have read at least 2 on the history of photography. Perhaps more years ago.

I too have the Beaumont Newhall and I suppose I got something from it. But for me the more nuts and bolts (of seeing, not technical) of Szarkowski's "Looking at Photographs" or Sontag etc were my meat and potatoes.

When I was teaching, after a short introduction to the camera and shooting, there would be one class in the darkroom, "this is how you develop and print". After that it was all looking at students' work. Or going out and taking photographs. And Szarkowski was as close to a textbook as I had. But they had the Henry Horenstein book for any questions about craft. Henry was a much better teacher about that stuff than I was ever going to be, and it was great to meet him a few years later due to our shared interest in "country" music (not the Nashville stuff).

I hope I didn't damage those students too badly.

But when I was in college the teachers (or professors?) told us just to learn from the other students in the darkroom, no technical stuff in the class at all.


A book, as in physical object, No.
Online history rambling, Yes.
Roger of Lens Rentals used to publish very interesting photography history blog posts. I miss that, but his technical ones are still fun.

I'm Mike's inspiration for todays post, so here are a few thought from me.

I'm a big history buff—and always have been. I learned about the reportage illustrations that were made during the Crimean War, from history books. There were many pen-and-ink and watercolors made, as well as a some wet plate photos.

I've read many biographies over the years. Winston Churchhill, Mickey Cohen, Marcel Duchamp, Lillian Gish, Stanley Kubrick, Chief William H. Parker, General Patton, Man Ray, General Rommel, Albert Speer, Hunter S. Thompson.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, The Guns of August, Hiroshima, Studies in Classic American Literature. Several books on Castro and the Vietnam War—the list is endless.

My next two books to read are The Story of the Bauhaus snd Isaacson's Steve Jobs.

I just have little interest in gear and old photos.

The History of Photography: from 1839 to the Present Day
Beaumont Newhall, 1948

The Complete Photographer (5th edition 1914)
R. Child Bayley 1906

Yes. A couple.

I have read Bystander: A History of Street Photography by Colin Westbrook & Joel Meyerowitz, which, while not a concise history of the medium, covers a lot of ground.
I also have a non-book suggestion that I have found both concise and interesting: Jeff Curto's History of Photography podcast. The last installment was made a few years ago, but it remains quite good. Each episode is a video podcast, so you can view the PowerPoint that accompanies each lecture.

Yes, a niece gave me forty years ago eight pre-proof print volumes of the Time-Life "Life Library of Photography" which I read and still have as well as a dutch translation of "The Birth of Photography" by Brian Coe, "An historical & descriptive account of the various processes of the daguerrotype & the diorama by Daguerre" with an introduction by Beaumont Newhall, and a facsimile reprint of the "korte handleiding tot de photographie" which is a translation of a book on collodium photography by Carl Stenberg.

Yes, the George Eastman House publication A History of Photography from 1839 to the present (already mentioned), and A History of Photography in 50 Cameras by Michael Pritchard. Taking a broader perspective: Gombrich's A History of Art, and A History of Pictures by David Hockney and Martin Gayford.

Some might argue that Eyes Wide Open! 100 Years of Leica Photography is the only history that matters :-)


As I'm originally from New Zealand some recomendations:

New Zealand Photography Collected by Athol McCredie

Into the Light: A History of New Zealand Photography by David Eggelton

Early New Zealand Photography: Images and Essays edited by Angela Wanhalla & Erika Wolf, with essays from a range of photographers and critics.

And the one that could be said to have started it all, Photography in New Zealand: A Social and Technical History by Hardwicke Knight.

New Zealand, as a nation in the modern, Eurocentric sense, is tied together with the history of photography, as one New Zealand gallery owner said in relation to the rise in interest in historical New Zealand photography:

“The growth of photography as part of the technical evolution coincided with the growth of New Zealand as a nation. Because of this, aspects of New Zealand’s vintage photography can also be viewed as a visual chronological survey representing a form of exploration as well as documenting changes in development.”

A few. But the more complete the history, the harder it is to slog through. I like historical takes that try to be less expansive and zero in on a particular aspect of photography. My favorite is Max Kozloff's The Theatre of the Face.

Also, while not strictly a history of photography, the late Richard Benson's The Printed Picture is a must read. There is also a video series online: https://printedpicture.artgallery.yale.edu

I've read a number of histories, the Newhall book, sevaral Taschen books, a history of 1800s photography etc... My complaint about art/photo history books is that they all have the same pictures. I understand the reason for that, but, unless your looking at books about individual photographers, the field quickly exhausts itself.

I haven't read any, but I've listened to Jeff Curto's History of Photography (twice!). He really brings things to life and has certainly inspired me to learn more. I travel a lot on business and seek out photography exhibits wherever I go. When I find an original by someone mentioned in the podcast I feel like I can really connect to the work and the time it was made.

Whoops. Forgot the link, feel free to merge into my previous comment. http://photohistory.jeffcurto.com/

Yes. Snowball's.

Searching! Newhall's.

There it is on my shelf: "The History of Photography, from 1839 to the Present Day", from the Museum of Modern Art, copyright 1949. First edition? I don't know but I bought it in 1963, when I took the course with Beaumont Newhall.

I just liked looking at the pictures; another formative experience for me.

I have become a bit disenchanted with a great deal of digital presentation (that may change when you and Magda open the Museum), and arty photography in general. In response, I have been discovering/rediscovering the photography of the "Golden Age".
I limbered up at


which has a Hall of Fame sidebar where you can read through some simple biographies and see a handful of representative photos. This site seems to be cobbled together from various works of John Szarkowski, but it is a good reference.

Then I started in on the Time-Life series, but found the "Great Photographers" too white male-centric, so I abandoned that project.
Currently, I am reading "The Online Photographer", starting with November 2005, and enjoying the heck
out of it.

[Cool! I should do that myself. It would give me an overview of where we've been. --Mike]

Not exactly, which is strange for me, because I'm a photography nut and a history buff. I've read about it in various books and articles, but not particularly a dedicated history of photography. I'm going to have to change that.

The Caring For Photographs volume of the Life set (which I got all of in the first 1970s edition, and still have) was my first formal introduction to the work of preserving old photos, which I seem to be more and more involved with. Those were mostly fairly lightweight, but very well-printed, so looking at the photos was valuable, and they did have some info, just not especially densely packed.

Yes. Not an expert. But I can memorize the important dates again easily.

During the formative years of the photography program at Columbia College (along about 1970 or so), I attended a one semester photography history class. If memory serves (big if, these days), the instructor was Arnold Crane. I do remember there being an accompanying printed book, but the rest of the entire experience has been, well....lost to history. Fifty years can erase a lot!

I never really had any interest in the photographic history of the period before the 40s. I have always had a real interest in the photographers I admire and in their lives.

Working in the medium to earn my crust did nothing to change my zone of interest; contemporaries were what it was about - for me. Of course, reading, and then later the Internet opened a lot of doors to the work of those people.

History (photographic), per se, left me - and probably still does - pretty uninterested. I am not interested at all in older processes than the usual film and paper as used during my career and find the idea of people getting obsessed by them as strange. Doing quaint seems pointless. Were it not for the vagaries of the photo gallerist world, I doubt many people would think of getting involved; they were abandoned because something better came down the road.

I love photographer monographs, and had I both money and space I would have at least one wall full of them. I will not buy softback photo books, only hardback. I like my passions to last.


Nope. Reading about photographic history is like reading about music - boring. Likewise, photo books that try to cover history by randomly plucking the greatest hit(s) of each era's best-known artists are about as deep and fulfilling as multi-genre music cds featuring artists whose only commonality is making some hit list. Neither scratches the surface or satisfies.

I am interested in the work itself, not the history of the medium. I don't need to know the history to appreciate a particular artist or work.

Two responses
1) Yes, lots of them.
I find the deep dives into arcana to be more interesting than the “big picture” books. Speaking of big pictures, I really really want to read an in depth biography of George Lawrence in the same depth of say his contemporary Muybridge.

2) define “photography”

My nomination for the best history of photography isn't a book, it's the BBC4 series, "The Genius of Photography". Tremendously inspiring and informative, it presents photography in the broader historical context -- social, artistic, political, technological -- as a product and instigator of the upheaval of its time.

How about “sort of”? :)
I don’t have any background in the fine arts, so I’m doing a little background reading, exceedingly entry-level, to help improve one’s photography and eye.
At the local charity shop I found “The Story of Painting, from the renaissance to the present” (circa 2005). Grand total of 128 pages :) Just to give me the gist. Also I found “A Treasury of Australian Bush Painting”, by Susan Bruce, given I enjoy landscape photography and live in Australia. The page count doesn’t even reach triple figures, but it is a joy. Both cost $2 AUD each.
Contact Theory: Lustrum Press is an interesting read and viewing for a novice too.
I look forward to compiling a more relevant Wishlist from this selection. Many thanks.

Yes, several. And I am currently attending a university course called Traditions of Photography. Deadline for essay is approaching, so there's some intensive reading ahead.

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