The best books on photography (regularly updated)
I hope to develop this site as a resource for other photographers seeking out the best in photography books. Not technical books. At least not many. But books that explore the history and aesthetics of photography. Books by people who are also fascinated by the craft and also share the belief that it is important.
This post summarizes a handful of books that I have found truly outstanding and that I believe must be in every photographer’s collection.
When I first wrote this post, I identified four that I thought were essential. I’ve expanded the list and will probably keep doing so.
None of these books will tell you anything about f-stops, lenses, Photoshop or lighting.
But, they definitely will help you become a better photographer. These are books I would immediately replace if I lost them and they are books that I keep re-reading.
- The Photographer’s Eye, by John Szarkowski;
- The Nature of Photographs, by Stephen Shore;
- Why People Photograph, by Robert Adams;
- Beauty in Photography, by Robert Adams;
- Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes;
- On Photography by Susan Sontag.
Each of the books on this list can be read in a day or so. Each will also take a lifetime to understand. Read them once and then, come back and read again and again, whenever you want to better understand what photography is all about.
Yes, Robert Adams gets two books on the list. They are both collections of brief essays by a photographer who began as a writer. Adams spent eight years as a college English teacher and he is clearly one of the most poetic and eloquent writers on photography that I have ever come across.
Szarkowski, Shore and Adams are all photographers, although Szarkowski’s own photographs are not much known today – he is far better know for his job as Director of the Photography Department at the Museum of Modern Art.
All of these books look at the heart and soul of photography. They treat photography as a unique art.
“Photography, and our understanding of it, has spread from a center;” Szarkowski wrote, “it has, by infusion, penetrated our consciousness. Like an organism, photography was born whole. It is in our progressive discovery of it that its history lies.”
As I seek to discover photography, I am very fortunate to have these three authors as guides.