The Photographer’s Library
The Photo Book
Starting a Photography Library
One of the many joys of being at home in New York City is not photography, but reading. Inspiration comes from many places, but books have been more influential than any other medium. I have been collecting art and photography books since childhood. Every photographer, whether novice or master, should cultivate their own library of books. Part inspiration and part reference, books have a lasting impact that smart photographers never underestimate.
The Internet created the illusion that everything is available online. This is a far cry from the truth. Archivists are consistently unearthing images that have not seen the light of day for decades. While there are billions of images online, the number of quality pictures remains very small. And almost any picture that shows up in a “Newest Camera Review” would be better used as a piece of toilet paper, if we could only figure out how to export the image to its native format, junk.
Part the reason for this is that the Internet promotes single, sensational images. But many of the great photographs of the last century do not fit that mold. They are quiet, underrated pictures just waiting to inspire you, if they only knew how to get in front of your eyes. There are images you want to see, but are not sure how to search for them.
A few years ago I started taking an informal survey with anyone I met. The question was: “Where do you look at images on a regular basis?”
The answers varied from websites and forums to media outlets and image posting sites, but one answer I rarely got was: “I look at books.”
When I return from a season of travel, my eyes need a break. They need a rest from the viewfinder. One of the things I look forward to is sitting on the sofa with my hardcover books, slowly flipping pages with some music in the background (and coffee, tea, a glass of wine or scotch.)
Novels and newspapers might be in danger of extinction, but good quality photography books will always have an audience. Where do you start?
A great approach to building a library is to find a book that contains a compilation of images spanning the last century which covers multiple styles and genres. This way it becomes easier to understand how the medium evolved over time and how different people have pushed the boundaries along the way.
Phaidon Press created “The Photo Book” as a publication that has no end. Every few years, it is updated, revised, and tailored once again to include a few new faces and make the entire history of photography digestible in a book that comfortably fits on your lap. Their aim is not to create a Bible in any way, rather it is more like an ever evolving strand of DNA, that unravels only to create deeper interest.
The photographers inside of the book come from all aspects of the photojournalism, art, fashion, and exploration worlds. There is bound to be at least fifty photographers you absolutely love, but had never heard of before.
With these new names you can head back to the Internet, Amazon, or better yet your favorite book store for a copy of their books. This is the beauty of books…the discovery. Locked between those two covers exists a multitude of worlds that will stay with you for a lifetime. And whether you are looking for a break from the glowing screen or want a little something to do with that new bottle of Sagratino, a well made photo book will give you hours of pleasure and never needs charging.
Discover “The Photo Book” by Phaidon Press for yourself.