Whether you just purchased your very first digital camera, or you are a world-renowned, seasoned photographer, being a photographer means being a lifetime student. Photography is both art and science. As such, no two photographers have the same relationship with photography. This is what makes it a forever evolving, always surprising and inspirational industry. The written work of great photographers, past and present, is an invaluable gift. It gives us a glimpse into their personal relationship with photography to better inform and inspire our own. Reading has, time and time again, helped me view my photography (sometimes literally) from a different perspective, has given me insight on producing authentic, emotional images, and it has reignited my own passion for photography
So whaddaya say? Mastin Labs book club, anyone?
There are so many books for photographers, but I’ve boiled my long reading list down to a few books that have had the greatest influence on my journey in photography. The following is a list of the top 5 books that I believe every photographer should read.
This book is arguably the bible on how to be an effective and ethical photojournalist. A lot of what I learned from this book fed into my shooting philosophy. It taught me to look for the story, find the peak moment, use layers to add interest to a photo and keep the photo as honest as possible with no manipulation during the taking of the photo.
Richard Avedon is my portrait hero, and this book is a must-read for portrait photographers. He has a supernatural way of capturing the soul of a person with the click of his camera. Avedon’s unique blend of instinct and psychology made his portraits of Americans in the west one of the most productive phases of his life. His assistant, Laura Wilson, wrote this book to document the behind-the-scenes of this powerful series. This book gives the reader deep insight into Avedon’s process of working with people and choosing locations. Fascinating.
Unmatched in his ability to harness hard light and stack multiple layers, photographer Alex Webb creates breathtaking street photography that stands the test of time. The Suffering of Light is a 13-year compilation of Webb’s best work and will take you from Haiti to Mexico to examine the life of everyday people through the lens of a master photographer.
This book is a heartbreakingly beautiful photo diary by filmmaker Wim Wenders. I love this book so much that I have gifted it over and over to photographers I feel could benefit from its emotional power. The photos are taken by Wenders during the making of his most well-known films such as Paris, Texas, and Faraway, So Close. Each photo is accompanied by notes, written by Wenders’, that describes the meaning of each photo. This book will not teach you how to be a better technical photographer. It will, however, teach your heart to see more clearly, and you’ll be a better photographer for it.
Martin Parr is a controversial photographer. His satirical and often humorous take on the heaviness and monotony of daily life in England was not well received by the public, at first. His use of on-camera flash and bold color to document the English seaside was seen as cruel and voyeuristic by his critics, but ultimately stood the test of time as an authentic way of documenting the real life of the working class in England in the 80s and 90s. Martin Parr is now a key member of Magnum Photos as a highly influential photographer who paved the way for alternative documentary photography.
These five books have had an incredible influence on my journey as a photographer, and I believe they are must-reads for photographers, regardless of level or experience.
Now, I’d love to hear from you.
What books would make it to your top 5 list?