Reading List: My Favorite Books on Photography

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”—Groucho Marx

Several years ago I was teaching a Mentor Series workshop in Montana with two wonderfully talented photographers. On a rainy day when it was too unpleasant to shoot outside, the workshop’s moderator set up a panel discussion with the three of us answering questions from the attendees.

One question was “what is your favorite photography books? I don’t specifically remember what the other two recommended but I know they were contemporary books (and were both humble enough not to recommend their own.) I do remember the books I recommended and want to share them with you. The third book is one that is highly specific to my interests and I’ll include it at the end. Here they are:

Discover Your Self Through Photography by Ralph Hattersley. This 1971 book has more than a bit of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in it with Hattersley’s writing a reflection of the times—times that I personally consider the most creative in my life. The book includes end-of-chapter lessons that you can use to expand your photographic consciousness on so many levels. If you want to give your photography a gentle shock treatment, spend 15 minutes a day quietly reading several pages from this book. This is no ordinary photo book and, no kidding, could change your life.

Photographic Seeing by Andreas Feininger was published in 1973 and may just be the definitive book on photographic composition. While I may rhapsodize over William Mortensen’s The Command to Look, he is an acquired taste while Feininger’s from the Golden Age of Photojournalism having been a Life magazine for 19 years. His book’s thesis compares how your eyes see the world and why it’s different than what makes great photographic composition. Unlike contemporary photo books, this is a dense read but worth it.

My original second book was Creative Color Photography of Robin Perry and is aimed at studio photographers, especially those interested in special effects, which I have always been interested in even before Photoshop. This book and Perry’s Photography for the Professionals remain my go-to books on this subject.

All of these books are available used at really affordable—just a few bucks each—prices from Amazon and the titles are linked to a page where you can purchase them. That last book is selling for less than a quarter—in hardback! Happy reading…

Author: Joe Farace

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