I put quite a bit of thought into this list when someone on a
photography forum I frequent posed the question, "what photography
books would you recommend either inspirational or technical?"
Long ago I resigned myself to the fact that I am something of
a thread killer and so, when I posted the following list to be ignored
by my fellow posters who were recommending books on LAB Color and RAW
processing, it was not a new experience but I didn't want my list to
fall completely off the map. That's why I've saved the list
to my photoblog. I'd love to know which books you would include in your own
similar list and, if you strongly agree or disagree with any of my
Why the 'affordable' moniker? Because books like HCB's "The Decisive
Moment" should obviously be included, but getting a copy
for less than
$2000 is difficult. The following is my own personal list
today - tomorrow it might be completely different. I've a
nagging feeling I've missed someone more deserving; if you have an
opinion who, please leave a comment. In no order of
importance they are:
Eggelston's Guide by William Eggleston
- Why? Because it was the catalog for the first ever color photography
exhibit at MoMA. It's hard to appreciate the controversy it created in
it's day (Ansel Adams hated it so much he wrote to the museum's board)
but this work not only legitimized color work but it heralded a new
snapshot aesthetic that is still hugely influential today.
Frank: The Americans by Robert Frank
- If Jack Kerouac writes the forward you know this is something
special. Frank was as much an influential part of the beat
generation as Kerouac.
of Sexual Dependency by Nan Goldin - The book that
established the visual journal form.
Family by Sally Mann
- I had a hard time deciding between this book and "At Twelve" but
this one had a bigger effect on photographic culture I think. Started a
huge discussion about photography ethics.
Stieglitz: Photographs and Writings (Alfred Stieglitz) by
Alfred Stieglitz - As the father of modern photography
Stieglitz has to be represented even though the definitive
Stieglitz book has yet to be produced.
An Aperture Monograph by Diane Arbus
- Although the book that accompanied the Revelations exhibit a couple
of years ago is probably a better book this is the book that was
released immediately after her death catapulting Arbus to Edith Piaf
comparisons and stardom. Her portrait style is still very
by Helen Levitt
- The most perfect photography monograph I've come across.
work from a great, under-appreciated, street photographer.
The Making of 40 Photographs by Ansel Adams
- trying not to let my own prejudice influence this list I guess I have
to give Ansel Adams a slot. I like this book more for the writings and
explanation than for the photographs.
Photography by Susan Sontag
- not a book of photographs but a book of 6 essays. If you
about photography and the act and responsibility of taking pictures
this is a must read.
Parr by Val Williams and Martin Parr
- I don't think Parr's influence on modern art photography can be
overstated - this retrospective really shows his scope and range.